Monday, February 8th, 2010

Why I Did It: How I Came to Write a Comic Book About an Aborted Fetus

ALPHONSEIn Why I Did It, artists and authors explain just why they made something. This week, Matthew Lickona talks about the making of Alphonse: A Monster For Our Time, a comic book about, yes, an aborted fetus.

I mean, yes, what was I thinking? Here's the rationale I wish I could give.

A lot of good horror stories are moral anxiety writ large (see also: Frankenstein and humanity's attempt to put nature on the rack, The Bacchae as the first in a long line of what my friend Michael calls "you screw, you die" stories.) And I think it's fair to say that there is moral anxiety about abortion.

I think there is a reason why Hillary Clinton called it "a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women;" why President Obama expressed his belief in The Audacity of Hope that "few women made the decision to terminate a pregnancy casually; that any woman felt the full force of the moral issues involved and wrestled with her conscience when making that heart-wrenching decision."

On a more personal, less political level, Jennifer Senior documented this anxiety in a story she wrote for New York magazine, "The Abortion Distortion." Senior visited the Allegheny Reproductive Health Center in Pittsburgh, and spoke with counselor (and former director) Claire Keyes:

Keyes knows that most women refer to the developing lives inside of them as ‘babies,' rather than fetuses, whether they're conflicted about their abortions or not. She knows that occasionally women want to keep sonograms of the fetuses they've aborted and even ask to see their reassembled remains once the procedure's through. (This is standard medical procedure, in order to make sure all the parts have been removed.) While many of her clinic patients are at peace with their decision, others are not, and she's got piles of loose-leaf binders containing pink hearts inscribed with messages to husbands, boyfriends, parents, God (‘A lot are to God'), and the never-born that express those feelings of uncertainty-like this one, written in the bubble handwriting of a teen who had accompanied her friend: To the unborn child, Know that your mom made the choice to keep you in heaven and this was not easy for us. (I was her support.) At the end of each counseling session, Keyes offers women a basket of stones from which to choose and make a wish. In early 2008, she built a small sanctuary in her clinic so that women and their partners could ‘say a final good-bye or a prayer, or just to sit quietly and not think anything at all.'

INSIDE PAGEI think abortion is "heart-wrenching" because something dies in an abortion-something that, ordinarily, would eventually grow into what everybody agrees is a human person. Some people think this "something" is a human person from the moment of conception. Others think it is a human person only after it leaves its mother's body. Many others fall somewhere in between, and believe that abortion should be legal, but restricted in this or that way.

Why do they fall somewhere in between? I don't think it's absurd to suggest that it's because they're uncertain. Yes, they affirm a woman's right to choose whether or not to carry her pregnancy to term. But… something dies, something that, ten weeks into the pregnancy, has hands and a face. They're uncertain about just what that something is. And from that uncertainty arises moral anxiety: if the fetus is not a person, then we need not worry overmuch about disposing of it. But if the fetus is a person, then abortion is a moral horror.

My comic series Alphonse takes that horror-that notion that hovers over many facets of the debate-and makes it overt. It imagines a fetus whose personhood is so manifest that he has the faculties of a fully developed adult. A fetus who is consumed with rage after suffering betrayal at the most fundamental level, and who vows revenge on those who sought to take his life. Alphonse is literally a monster-"a fetus or an infant that is grotesquely abnormal and usually not viable"-one I hope bears some of the perversely prophetic character of the freaks who populate Flannery O'Connor's short stories. (Think of the Misfit in "A Good Man is Hard to Find," or the club-footed boy in "The Lame Shall Enter First.") He is my attempt at what O'Connor would call a "large and startling figure," whose grotesque character upsets the ordinary way of the world.

And like the Misfit, he is not the center of the story, not really. Everybody remembers Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs, but of course, the story is really about a damaged young woman's attempt to silence the demons that have haunted her from youth. ("Have the lambs stopped screaming, Clarice?") So yeah, Alphonse is the monster who makes the cover, but Alphonse is very much the story of eight lives that intersect after an attempted abortion. It is not a polemic, not a treatise, not a piece of propaganda. It is, I hope, a good horror story.

* * *

As I said, that's the rationale I wish I could give. But even though I think all of the above is true, it's also hindsight. It's not where Alphonse came from. I didn't sit down and wonder, "How can I best explore the moral anxiety surrounding abortion in a fictional setting?" That's not how inspiration works-not for me, at least.

It started with Pixy, a 1993 graphic novel by Max Andersson. From the promo copy:

Alka Seltzer and Angina Pectoris have all the luck – bad, that is. They've been ejected into the street because their apartment was put to sleep, Angina had to abort their child (the result of a malfunctioning Safe-Sex bodysuit) – how could it get worse? When a friendly stranger offers them his apartment, things seem to be looking up… but then Angina gets a call from the Netherworld. It's her aborted fetus: he's drunk and he's pissed off. So begins Pixy, which Neil Gaiman calls ‘the best comic I've read this year.'

Me, I never got past that devastating phone call from the Netherworld. I closed the book and put it back on the shelf at the comic shop. But the image stayed with me.

That was the beginning. And I confess to feeling a serious twinge when I watched Kill Bill Vol. 2 and saw the Bride instantly transformed by the realization that she was pregnant. "Before that strip turned blue, I was a killer who killed for you. But once that strip turned blue, I could no longer do any of those things. Not any more. Because I was going to be a mother." (I don't know if it's permissible to have earnest emotional responses during Tarantino's movies. Can't help it.)

But things really took off with Umbert. (File under: you don't always get to choose your muse.) Longtime readers of Gawker may recall the site's mention of a comic strip character called Umbert the Unborn. Umbert is a fetus in utero who is endowed with reason, will and detailed knowledge of the world outside the womb-including legalized abortion. Umbert is clearly intended to be sweet and endearing (and too adorable to abort), but he got me to thinking-what if it were true? What if there was a fetus who really was sentient, who was suspended upside down in the dark, and who knew he was slated for termination? What would that do to a person? I figured it would leave him deeply twisted-consumed by fear and rage, but also desperate for love. That's Alphonse.

ALPHONSE 2I first wrote about my inverse-Umbert in a memoir I had pitched and sold to a small Catholic press. They were so unhappy with the finished manuscript that I ended up having to return my advance; the letter my editor wrote me explaining where I had gone wrong mentioned Alphonse in two separate places. (And my editor was pro-life.)

But my little monster stayed with me. I made one sketch, then another. And then, all at once, the first page of a comic. I am not much of an artist, but I hung on to that page. Eventually, I wrote a script for that opening scene. And then for the whole story. Long story short: three years after that first sketch, and after pitching everyone I knew in the comic and book publishing worlds, I decided to self-publish. (Just like Bone! Except, you know, without the charm and probably the genius.) I begged enough money from friends and relatives to hire an artist and letterer for my first issue. When I learned about the micro-financing site, I used it to beg enough money for issue two. These days, I'm begging again.

* * *

Why did Alphonse stay with me? Well, the easy answer is because of my parents' patient and tireless efforts on behalf of the unborn. And while my own involvement does not really compare to theirs, I am still squarely in the camp that holds to the personhood of the fetus from the get-go. I remain convinced that abortion matters, and matters enough to make a quixotic project like Alphonse-which runs the risk of offending people on both sides of the issue-worthwhile.

But there is another reason-less why Alphonse has stayed with me, more why I have stayed with Alphonse. Last Saturday afternoon, my 12-year-old son was sitting on the living room couch, reading a magazine put out by a pro-life organization. I was at the dining room table.

"Dad," he called to me, "Can you give me some pro-choice literature?"

"Yes, I can," I said. "Why do you ask?"

He held up the magazine. "I want them to read this. And it would be hypocritical of me to ask them to read it if I didn't read their stuff."

I was proud of him. I did not introduce my son to the abortion issue, but once he came to me about it, I tried hard to get him to consider the opposition before making pronouncements. That kind of consideration is not easy when you are 12 and you believe that abortion ends a human life, but here he was, making the effort.

I don't imagine that Alphonse is going to change anyone's mind about abortion, and that's okay. That's not why I wrote it. Rather, I was trying to make a work of art (however minor) that would do some of the things that art does-reflect experience, engage imagination, and just maybe, enlarge perspective.

Matthew Lickona is a staff writer for the San Diego Reader, a weekly newspaper. Alphonse can be purchased online. The first issue is available as a PDF here.

53 Comments / Post A Comment

bong hitler (#3,233)

How I Came to Write a Comic Book About All The Poor Defenseless Sperms Who Die In Condoms

"The Gastrointestinal Tract: A Spermatozoa's Journey"

NicFit (#616)

You ever listen to the Sex Pistols' "Bodies"? Probably the first abortion-as-angry-adult incarnation.

libmas (#231)

I'll give it a listen.

6h057 (#1,914)

This reminds me of one something I learned in a college anthropology class. Apparently in some parts of China when a child is sick it's believed the ghost of a dead child is haunting the family's home. Mothers are told to ignore their sick children, as to confuse the ghost of where they might be.

6h057 (#1,914)

Yeah, I couldn't be bothered to make a point with that post.

Consider this joke aborted.

johnpseudonym (#1,452)

"You screw, you die"?? Matthew needs to re-read his Euripides with a more critical eye. But interesting article and an even more interesting comic book.

propertius (#361)

I thought the same. Always seemed like an dramatization of a faint memory of an old human sacrifice. In fact I believe that E.R. Dodds saw it that way (though it was a long time that I read his edition of the play – caveat).

The color scheme is weirdly Christmas-y: green fir tree, white snow, red blood.

libmas (#231)

Okay, bad example, if only because it requires all kinds of qualification. But Dionysus does lure Pentheus to his death by the promise of hot all-girl action no?
Stranger: Ah! Would you like to see them in their gatherings upon the mountain?
Pentheus: Very much. Ay, and pay uncounted gold for the pleasure.

But I'm glad you found the piece interesting.

johnpseudonym (#1,452)

Yes! But the subtext is all about the Other: Europe vs. Asia, old gods vs. new gods, man vs. woman, human vs. animal, etc. (Keep in mind Dionysos is a late Asian addition to the Greek pantheon.) So actually it is a very good example coupled with Mary Shelley; it's just the quip about screwing and dying deflates the point a bit. Like saying Moby Dick is about commercial fishing.

But seriously, will check out the comic. Very intriguing.

oudemia (#177)

The Bacchae is pretty much the opposite of a "you screw, you die" story. It's a "you die if you refuse to surrender yourself to the raw/irrational/erotic" story.

libmas (#231)

There's a wonderful discussion to be had there. You're clearly right that the trouble begins when Pentheus refuses to give it up to Dionysus and his revels. But the way things end makes me wonder if the play isn't positing some middle way – if you don't make controlled (i.e. ordained and regulated) sacrifice to Dionysus, all hell will break loose, and you will be dismembered. A person might argue that something like marriage represents an ordained, regulated submission to the erotic. I mean, this is the king we're talking about. His rulings affect social norms. Anyway, as I said, it was a bad example. But Friday the 13th was too easy.

propertius (#361)

The midwinter festival during which Pentheus is killed is a temporary annulment of the household constraints on women. The women abandon the house and go (by themselves!) up onto the mountain (oreibasia) where they perform a bloody ritual. The Bacchae speaks of women abandoning their looms. A famous vase painting shows a maenad running while holding and infant by the leg. The idea is of a (temporary) disorder in the polis, in which not only do the women break free of their toil and maternal role, but also in which the male gaze and right to access – is forbidden. That's what bothers Pentheus, and why he is enticed into spying on the maenads.

libmas (#231)

Thanks, Propertius.

lotsoftreble (#2,715)

Thoughts about spirits and souls and such are lovely things when contemplating one's relationship to the Almighty. But I must say that the only pro-life position that matters in debate is the one in favor of American judges, lawyers, and juries arguing in courtrooms about whether to convict a woman and/or a doctor for the "murder" of an embryo or a fetus. Who is really in favor of that? What middle position is possible?

DainCurst (#3,377)

Monster fetus is an argument AGAINST abortion? This makes less than perfect sense somehow.

cherrispryte (#444)

"something dies in an abortion" ….. Oh for the fuck of shit. Do I have to seriously respond to this?
This is no more than anti-choice rhetoric wrapped up in edgy new paper.

Luckier (#857)

I'm as pro-choice as they come (seriously, I did clinic defense in the late 80s, until my appointed clinic was firebombed) but I can say that yes, something dies in an abortion. I can also say that something dies in an appendectomy.

DainCurst (#3,377)

"something dies in an abortion" is the point of an abortion, no?

cherrispryte (#444)

Only if "something dying" is also the point of menstruation, male ejaculation, circumcision, tonsil removal, liposuction, and, as the other commenter pointed out, appendectomies.

MichaelBD (#3,115)

Cause, yeah. If you don't remove your tonsil you're going to have to diaper it and send it to college someday.

I honestly don't understand how you can believe that if someone "wants it" – it's a baby, and we rub the tummy and talk baby talk to it. But if they don't want it, it's no different than an appendix. Even though, unlike an appendix, it has a unique DNA – and is in the process of growing into a baby.

lotsoftreble (#2,715)

Only the very odd are talking baby-talk to first trimester tummies.

oudemia (#177)

Oh, kitten_witawip: +1000

cherrispryte (#444)

@MichaelBD: My personal belief is, it's not a baby until it's viable. Before that, it's no different than an appendix, especially in the way that it can kill you if something goes wrong. A pre-viable fetus is part of a woman's body, and no one but that woman has the right to say what should happen to it.

I also strongly believe that no child should enter this world unwanted. I honestly don't understand how you could disagree with that.

MichaelBD (#3,115)

Well, you're welcome to your personal beliefs. But let's say that viability keeps creeping back earlier, as it's been doing the past three decades? Does that change the moral status of the fetus for you?

I would reiterate that a pre-viable fetus is different from an appendix, because it is rapidly becoming a viable fetus, and then a child – and it has a unique DNA. Science, and all that.

Anyway, since this fetus has DNA made up partially of it's mother's DNA, and it's fathers- both the mother and father have responsibilities to it – like the ones recognized in paternity lawsuits. When people aren't planning on getting an abortion, they tend to do stuff like buy things for their unborn child, like cribs, or start 529 accounts. So while baby-talk might be weird. Most people who aren't considering abortions treat their first-trimester fetus like its something important worth planning for – not like a nose-hair to be plucked.

I also strongly believe that no child should enter this world unwanted. We want to get there in different ways! Yours involves really sharp instruments.

cherrispryte (#444)

Are we really going to have this debate here, on this website? Ugh. Ok.

If you chose to designate personhood based on DNA, good for you. However, I base it on viability. Considering 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage before week six, having independent DNA isn't exactly a good predictor of "baby-to-be", as that clump of cells has a 1 in 4 chance of never becoming a baby anyway.

People tend to wait for all of the announcing and crib-buying til after the first trimester – because miscarriage is so common. And, possibly, because they realize there's a hell of a lot of difference between something the size of a raisin and something that will one day go to college.

The father doesn't so much have responsibilities until after the kid's born. Fathers don't go through the life-threatening conditions of pregnancy and childbirth. Which is why abortion needs to solely be a woman's decision. Her body, her choice, and all that.

And my solution isn't just really sharp instruments! RU-486 has only been legal for 10 years here and it accounts for 15% of all abortions. So not always pointy things!
I would also really really like everyone in the world to have comprehensive sex education, access to all the 100% effective contraception they could ever want, and never be coerced into sex, ever. But barring my magical world of super-condoms and equality, sometimes sharp things are necessary.

Scum (#1,847)

chrrispryte, "X has not yet expressed Y,Z characteristics which I associate with X therefore it is not X' is the sort of astonishingly bad argument which results when someone substitutes 'personal belief's' for facts.

cherrispryte (#444)

Okay then, fact: A woman has the right to control what happens to her own body. End of discussion.

Evan (#1,473)

That's what I was thinking. Glad you said it.

I'm sick to fucking death of people referring to themselves as "advocates for the unborn" because it's propagandistic bullshit, and we all know (or should know) that Planned Fucking Parenthood does more to prevent abortion in this country than all the pro-life organizations put together.

The only way to be truly pro-life is to be pro-choice and to walk your goddamned talk.


Bart (#1,177)


Why I decided to write a comic book about Herm the Sperm

Herm the Sperm

Herm the sperm was determined he was going to fertilize an egg. He knew he only had a one in a million chance so he worked out all the time. He was constantly swimming laps even while the other sperms were just hanging out.

The other sperms used to tease him about his wasted efforts. "Hey Herm, you're wasting your time.", they would tell him, "You'll never be the first one there. Then you'll have wasted your whole life training while we were enjoying ourselves."

But Herm just kept on working out. "I'll be first. You'll see.", he'd tell them.

Finally the time came, the time for Herm to run the race. He got lined up right in front. He had a clear lane in front of him and he just knew he was going to win. The excitement level was high as everyone anticipated the starting gun.

About the time the gun went off Herm heard someone holler,

"Wait Herm, come back! It's a blow job!"

Somehow I will work in a character named Sissypussy.

Scum (#1,847)

An interesting read Mathew but I would've liked you to state your case with a little more force. "Something" does not die in an abortion, "something" is killed, which is the whole point of your comic after all.

Similarly I find the phrase 'Aborted fetus' an example of undue deference to the pro-choice position, albeit probably an unconscious one on your part. It is an important plank of the pro-choice catechism that a fetus is a mysterious inhuman organism, something that at some vague point and by some vague process may graduate into a state of humanity but is not there yet. Of course this is nonsense. The term fetus merely refers to the stage of child's development after the embrionic and before birth. The only distinction between a baby and a fetus is one of location, whether it is in the mothers womb or not. As such, since an abortion removes the child from the womb, it does not make much sense to refer to your creation as an aborted fetus. Aborted baby would be far more accurate.

lotsoftreble (#2,715)

I don't think anybody is changing anybody's mind here. But I do honestly want to know (Matthew, Michael BD, scum) the end point of the pro-life argument… Do you want people to beg for forgiveness from God, go to prison, or both?

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Actually, by your own argument, "aborted baby" would be less accurate, because "baby" is a developmental stage as distinct from "fetus" as it is from "child" or, for argument's sake, "geriatric."

So the most accurate term is, in fact, "aborted fetus."

MichaelBD (#3,115)

I'm not pro-life, I'm anti-abortion. It sounds like splitting hairs, but there is a difference. My view isn't that an unborn child has a right to life, but that it's parents have ordinary responsibilities to it – to feed, clothe, nourish, and educate it. Anyway…

My guess is that the anti-abortion side would have to build a much larger and firmer consensus about the moral status of a fetus, that it is in fact of more moral concern than a fingernail. If that was done, society would stigmatize abortion more – greatly reducing it. Without this step, laws criminalizing abortion would have perverse effects.

But if we can win hearts and minds, abortion should be considered a "malo in se" – a wrong in itself, something in between child abandonment and manslaughter. Mothers who do this to their unborn child should face fines. Doctors who cooperate should face fines, and possibly a suspension or revocation of their license to practice medicine.

My prediction is that this won't happen anytime soon. Instead, as chemical abortions become more common, surgical abortion will be stigmatized as a "disgusting" option for irresponsible and poor people. Eventually it will be seen as barbaric compared to chemical abortions.

lotsoftreble (#2,715)

Thank you for clarifying. This seems a bizarre series of events, but I see you have thought it through.

MichaelBD (#3,115)

No problem. Also, my views are my own. And probably don't reflect the views of most pro-lifers- who are "right to lifers"

I really think the debate is going to change a lot as viability inches earlier into pregnancy and chemical abortions become more effective and advanced.

eatbigsea (#1,361)

That reminds me, I must make a donation to enable women in Ireland to come to the UK for abortions.

propertius (#361)

There is a very dense discussion of the philosophy of abortion and infanticide by Michael Tooley here:

My favorite part was about the carrots.

Jon Jacobs (#3,425)

I may be the first whose views might switch as a result of this discussion. I've been strongly pro-choice all my life (I'm in my 50s), but Chrystysprite, the doctrinnaire pro-choice advocate here, is making me reconsider my stance. After all, I'd always felt that the anti-choice position was based primarily on religion, a leap of faith, unwillingness to consider science etc. Yet, Chyrsysprite's arguments conclude with him/her proclaiming just the opposite: although pro-choice himself, he comes right out and says it's actually the pro-choice case that is primarily a matter of faith…. which when push comes to shove, it must shove aside facts, science and everything else. I think I have some difficult thoughts and choices to make from here on.

(Footnote: I already went through this process vis-a-vis geopolitics and pacifism after 9/11, and believe me, realigning one's attitudes and admitting one's been wrong all one's life is no picnic! You must find a whole new set of friends, for one thing – because even the most courageous and honest among those you knew, won't be up to taking on the same task themselves….)

cherrispryte (#444)

Are you talking about me? Because I'm most definitely female. And I'm not shoving aside facts or science. There is no faith involved in the concept that women must have control over their own bodies, which at the end of the day, is the whole point of this debate – and the basis for my opinion. Ensuring women have safe, guilt-free access to a medical procedure is a cornerstone of that concept.

Perhaps you're just getting increasing conservative, as most olds do?

I really don't understand why your beliefs are hinged on a random internet commenter. Seems suspect. A lot of people on both sides of the debate feel very strongly about this issue. That is understandable. I have never had an abortion and probably never will. I still take issue with the notion that a fetus has more of a right to my body than I do. I would never coerce or force a woman to have an abortion. I would likewise never force a woman to give birth. Also, you must think very highly of yourself! Having the courage and honesty to alter your beliefs in your 50s based on 9/11 and now based on an internet commentor. Your friends, not so much.

Evan (#1,473)

I call bullshit.

You have to remember, there are anti-abortion wingnuts all over the place who troll internet forums with all kinds of "creative" ways of making their arguments.

cherrispryte (#444)

That was my second/third/less angry thought! Unfortunately, my troll-dar was weak while I was commenting obsessively here ….

I have been mentally kicking this article around since yesterday, and would like to mention something. Or I guess share something.

I think abortion is grotesque. It bothers me profoundly, killing what I think of as a potential baby. I chose, like the much more famous (and smug!) Mrs Tebow, to continue a life-threatening pregnancy against medical advice because I just couldn't imagine being able to live with myself otherwise.

But really, when we talk about being pro-life, when we say things like mothers (like a woman who hasn't given birth yet is a "mother", what the shit)being fined if they chose to abort, and doctors being sanctioned for performing the procedure–nobody is addressing the most awful thing, which is *forcing someone to give birth against her will*. we talk about the baby, the baby, the baby, but christ almighty the baby cannot be grown in a handbag. the baby is growing in a woman, and given our interest in the rights of the baby, the baby, the baby, shouldn't we be also interested in the rights of the woman who *already* exists; who has obligations to herself and others; who has a mind that can reason–surely if a potential baby has rights, then we should accord them to the woman in whom the baby is living.

and as far as how much guilt a woman should feel over murdering an unborn baby–we allow murder in self defense. we allow you to kill someone who is a direct threat to you. An unborn baby is a threat. both an existential threat, given a situation where the baby's needs are diametrically opposed to the needs of the woman carrying it and an actual, physical threat, since pregnancy is inherently dangerous(abortion is less lethal to women than pregnancy).

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

This is close to where I fall on this issue; thanks for articulating it so clearly. As a dude, I would of course defer to the lady who would have to bring this hypothetical baby to term, but if for some bizarre reason it were left up to me, I would have serious qualms about the morality of the procedure.

However, 'moral' and 'immoral' are not the province of the law, except as they apply to the maintenance of a just and free society. Abortion doesn't destabilize society the way murder or theft do. Like most moral questions, it's a choice individuals have to make, not a decree that should be handed down to them.

The question of whether or not I could make that choice has no relevance whatsoever when asked whether others have the right to make that choice. Just as I would have to leave that hypothetical choice to my partner and support her decision, I have to leave that moral choice to any other individual.

In conclusion: Safe sex – try it for the gratification, stick around for the lack of moral quandaries!

lotsoftreble (#2,715)

Yes, I think this is what I've been getting at. Think it through to the end and decide what scenario leaves you the queasiest. The anti-abortion position always ends with the public shaming of women who refuse to think like you think. Whether it's a hospital room or a courtroom, it's messed up.

Rufus McCain (#3,434)

MichaelBD: "I'm not pro-life, I'm anti-abortion. It sounds like splitting hairs, but there is a difference. My view isn't that an unborn child has a right to life, but that it's parents have ordinary responsibilities to it – to feed, clothe, nourish, and educate it."

This is the first novel thing I've heard in about twenty-five years of tuning into the abortion rights debate. Extremely sensible. Far from bizarre.

libmas (#231)

Howdy, all. For whatever it's worth, here is a link to issue one of the series:

Jef (#1,843)

Good thing I skipped to the end. Thanks!

James McGeveran (#3,866)

I reviewed this book. It's ambitious, but I didn't dig it:

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