Duke Magazine-Between the Lines-Jul/Aug 2002

August 1, 2002
Duke Magazine-Islands on the Brink  

his summer's "unpleasant reality," as The New York Times put it in July--the reality of corporate accounting scandals, stock-market plunges, and job-market pressures--may have forced "a reassessment of values among many at the start of their professional lives."

Unconventional career choices have an appeal to a set of Duke graduates--among them, William Haefeli '75, a professional cartoonist whose work is on this issue's cover and in these pages. He will be regularly contributing cartoons in issues to come.

While he wrestles with broad cultural themes, Haefeli now and again returns to college in his cartooning--where, for example, one drinking buddy says to another, "You went to the Harvard of the South? I went to the Harvard of the Midwest!" Another cartoon shows two college students; one of them wonders, "What are we going to do when we're too old to take study breaks?" In a third, a personnel director is looking over a rÈsumÈ and tells the anxious applicant, "I admit it does look very impressive. But you see, nowadays everyone graduates in the top ten percent of his class."

A college reunion is one of Haefeli's settings; a conspicuous "D" is on a classmate's jacket. The reunion becomes, in Haefeli's hands, an occasion of overt exuberance and silent confessions. "Sometimes I eat canned spaghetti," one is thinking to himself. Other thought balloons pop up: "I can't figure out how to operate my computer." "I still like disco music." "I lease my phone from the phone company."

Comically and knowingly, Haefeli captures telling moments and powerful trends--including an unfettered pride in one's college pedigree, a yearning to perpetuate an idle-student existence, and institutionalized generosity in the awarding of grades. Look for his wise irreverence in The New Yorker and, from now on, in Duke Magazine.

--Robert J. Bliwise, Editor