Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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Sempé Fi: A Column About New Yorker Covers (New!)

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Pollux writes:

A lone man walks towards a White House constructed from a few thin, sketchy lines in Guy Billout’s “inauguration cover” for the January 19, 2009 issue of The New Yorker. The lone man could be Obama, but is not immediately recognizable as the president-elect. The lone figure, I believe, represents Everyman, unprotected from the snow’s coldness. We are all walking towards the White House, which is set in a wintry landscape unencumbered by distractions, crowds, and TV cameras.

The Everyman walks straight towards his new home, through the fallen red-and-blue leaves of the autumnal election season, which is now over and done with. He walks away from the chaotic noise, a mixture of violence and optimism, of our two warring political parties, whose tendrils nevertheless trail him for as long as possible. He is an Amundsen in search of a new Pole across the Ross Ice Shelf of a new future, away from the simple dichotomy of red and blue.

The cover is more grim than hopeful, I think. What is certain is that the shoeprints in the snow lead towards the future down an unmarked pathway towards the White House door. The loneliness of power is apparent here, and Billout’s stark artistic style lends itself very effectively to this message.

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2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree