Reidar Visser’s magisterial 300-page book A Responsible End? The United States and Iraq, 2005-2010 is now available for sale from Amazon. Actually, it’s already selling really well there!
Long-time JWN readers will be quite familiar with the work of this smart and dedicated European researcher, who hangs his hat at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI). I am really, really proud that this book, which is an author-curated compilation of Visser’s best contemporaneous writings on the subject, is in the inaugural (Fall 2010) list of my publishing company, Just World Books.
Visser and I signed a contract for the book back in spring, in the hope that the Iraqi parliamentary election of March 7 might fairly rapidly lead to the formation of a new Iraqi government and therefore to the end of the five-year “transition” period envisioned for Iraq’s first post-invasion elected government. That would give this collection of Visser’s blogged and other short analytical texts from 2005 until the present a clear start and end-point and therefore some strong thematic integrity.
But as we know, the leaders of Iraq’s four main political blocs dithered and dithered. (And the U.S. stood in the wings, urging them all to build a wall-to-wall coalition rather than leaving one or more of the blocs to play the– perhaps rather necessary?– role of a parliamentary opposition.) Long story short, it took them until November 11 to inaugurate the new prime minister, who by an amazing coincidence (irony alert!) is the same as the old prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki. The “new” (also old) president and the actually new speaker of parliament were inaugurated at the same time.
Jalal Talabani’s inauguration on November 11 as sole president marked the end of the clunky former “presidential council” system and therefore also– in Reidar’s view, and also in mine– the end of the transition. (Iraq still doesn’t have a government– far less a government capable of delivering basic services to the citizenry… But that is all a slightly different issue.)
Regarding our publishing plans, Reidar and my editorial team had prepared just about all of the manuscript by late October. But in early November he said it seemed that the “end” of the transition could be close, so we held off on finalizing the book. And then on November 11 it happened. Reidar wrote one of his inimitably canny blog posts about the events of that day– that same evening. Then the following day, he wrote a few pieces of supplementary text that helped ease the new blog post into the right place in the book and expressed his final thoughts on the nature of the transition… My amazing contract typesetter Jane Sickon and I worked on the PDF that weekend. We had the first proof copies of the printed book in hand on November 15… and the final printed version went on sale at Amazon on November 24.
If you’re anywhere near Washington, DC, by the way, we will be formally launching the book at the Middle East Institute there at lunch-time next Tuesday. Reidar will be coming over to speak at the launch. We’ll have copies for sale; and he can discuss and sign your copy after the main discussion.
… The publication of Visser’s fine book marks the end of JWB’s fall 2010 publishing season. We have now published four fabulous titles and I venture to argue that not a single one of these books would exist in its present form today– or even, perhaps, ever– if I had not taken the decision to found this publishing company last spring, and if I had not worked with these four great writers to mold some of the best of their existing short-text oeuvre into the durable, familiar, and user-friendly format of a book.
Back in late September, when my editors and I were actively working with all these manuscripts, I discovered that the “self-curation” model of compilation that I had developed, and that I’d shared with all these authors, had had some amazing and largely unexpected results. I wrote then about those results that,
- In addition to providing the reader with a reliable and compelling authorial voice, the curating model allows a few other important things to happen in the text:
- * Because the blog posts and other short texts are presented in chronological order– whereas, for example, most blog archives are in reverse-chrono order– the curating model midwifes the emergence of a strong and sustained narrative in our books. Such a narrative may have been implicit for a devoted reader of the origin blog in question. But seeing it come out of the author-compiled chapters is a much more powerful experience.
* Because the book’s constituent texts all come with their original dates of publication clearly marked, our authors and editors don’t need to go back in and correct and/or update them in any way. We know that this blog post was written on such-and-such a date in 2007, or the speech was delivered in 2008. We don’t expect anyone at that point in time to have foreseen the future! But it can still be really informative to see what this smart observer and/or analyst was indeed saying at that time. Keeping the constituent texts more or less as-is retains as much as possible of the freshness and quirkiness that can make reading blog posts (or listening to Chas Freeman speeches) such an engaging and enjoyable process.
* Having the authors go back into their own past oeuvre and interact with– and comment on– it in the present gives the reader the rich experience of seeing this writer’s intellect actively at work in a reconsideration or re-presentation of his or her own past work. The word “curate” comes from the Latin for “to pay close, loving attention to.” And what we see in these books is these authors undertaking a close– hopefully loving?– and very thoughtful engagement with their own past oeuvre.
… Anyway, I hope all my great readers here at JWN will help us to spread the word about these books! They are all priced between $22.95 and $24.95. Our JWB sales page at Amazon is here. I think these books– all of which are very different!– can fill many of your gift-giving needs for the upcoming holiday season!
Two final points: If you and a group of friends or a local congregation or community group want to order a total of 12 or more of our titles (any mixture of them), contact our community outreach program to learn about the great terms on which we can fill those orders. Secondly, if you live on the U.S. west coast and would be interested in helping plan the west-coast tour that Laila El-Haddad will be undertaking in February 2011, to promote her fabulous Gaza Mom book, let us know as soon as you can, as we have just started that planning!
But my main message is this: Hearty congratulations to Reidar Visser, Laila El-Haddad, Joshua Foust, and Chas Freeman for authoring four fabulous and very important books for the reading public! They will sit on library shelves for generations, and bring your work into a form that is much richer than being “merely” the sum of its parts.