I’m glad to be encountering these only now that they’ve been collected in these large 11 or 12 issue volumes. I can tell that it is the world-building here that will keep me into this, and I only got there in the last bits of this volume. If I had picked up a 5 issue length trade, I’m not sure I would have understood what the fuss was about.
In this environmental history of Narragansett Bay, Pastore traces the development of the Bay from a nebulous and malleable estuary from the earliest arrivals of English settlers to its nineteenth-century incarnation as the coastal terminus of the inland industrial complex along the Blackwater Canal. The material on the early modern period provides a lot of material of historiographical interest for me in its discussion of how people construct marine and coastal spaces, and I hope to write a more detailed review focused on that material in the future. However, I find Pastore’s pitch for the contemporary importance of this estuarial history in an era of rising sea levels compelling as well. A couple weeks ago I mentioned Tim Maly’s essay on new approaches to designing the built environment of our coastlines, and Pastore ends up in a similar spot, arguing that our future relationship to the coastline may need to return to the flexible brackishness of the early modern Narragansett.
Tech industry invocations of the history of science and technology are frequently frustratingly Whiggish and simplistic, and Thiel opens with the usual tropes of progress from the Scientific Revolution through Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. Knowing him primarily from equally simplistic public political pronouncements, I was neither surprised nor hopeful that things would improve. However, Thiel’s analysis of less grand problems, of problems on the scale of a single business, actually show precisely the kind of sensitivity to nuance and contingency that’s lacking in these other areas. I found the middle of this book to be a very insightful analysis of the relationships of people to business and of businesses to markets. The final chapter, a personality profile and psychological analysis of the ideal startup founder compiled from tech industry anecdotes, returns to pronouncements that are more grand than the insights they contain. In short, the silly parts are as silly as I feared—I will never get over the insistence on referring to a ‘startup’ as a historically unique mode of organizing people—but that middle part surprised me and is definitely worth the read.
The art in the couple of Francavilla issues was great; the art in the rest of the issues in the collection is not to my taste. Given Bendis’s work in Ultimate Spider-man I honestly expected a bit more fun and a bit less straight-ahead comic book fighting and action. Not sure I need to read more.