Grace Bello interviews the always interesting Françoise Mouly, art director of The New Yorker and founder of Toon Books, for Guernica:
I know what I respond to is a voice. A voice is not just a stylistic thing, but it means someone who really has something to say. I think a lot of what I get from books—whether they be books of comics or books of literature—is a window into somebody’s mind and their way of thinking. I love it when it’s so specific. It’s a new way to look at the world. It’s as if I could get in and see it through their eyes. It also reaches a level of universality because, somehow, I can recognize some of my feelings in seeing somebody who is actually expressing their own inner reality. Even though Flaubert has not been in Madame Bovary’s skin, you do get a sense of what it’s like to be that person. It’s a kind of empathic response when you’re reading it.
The New York Times profiles Julie Strauss-Gabel, the publisher of Dutton Children’s Books:
She became publisher of Dutton in 2011, and right away, it was clear this was going to be a different sort of imprint. She whittled down the list from about 50 titles a year for children of all ages, to about 10 books, with a focus on high-quality young adult fiction.
“There was nobody doing just what I do now 20 years ago,” she said. “It would have been unheard-of for a children’s publisher not to do picture books”…
…For such a small list — this year, Dutton will publish a mere eight titles — Ms. Strauss-Gabel’s books are strikingly diverse, covering science fiction and dystopian worlds, psychological suspense and works of social realism. She favors realistic, contemporary fiction, though lately she has been acquiring more memoirs and nonfiction.
“We’re in an era where the definition of a young adult book is completely up for grabs, and people are willing to reinvent it,” she said. “There’s no one saying, ‘You can’t do this in a book for children.’ ”
Robert Macfarlane, whose new book Landmarks was published in the UK last month, has a fascinating essay in The Guardian on the writer M. R. James, and the eerie horror of the English countryside:
We do not seem able to leave MR James (1862–1936) behind. His stories, like the restless dead that haunt them, keep returning to us: re-adapted, reread, freshly frightening for each new era. One reason for this is his mastery of the eerie: that form of fear that is felt first as unease, then as dread, and which is incited by glimpses and tremors rather than outright attack. Horror specialises in confrontation and aggression; the eerie in intimation and aggregation. Its physical consequences tend to be gradual and compound: swarming in the stomach’s pit, the tell-tale prickle of the skin… James stays with us is his understanding of landscape – and especially the English landscape – as constituted by uncanny forces, part-buried sufferings and contested ownerships. Landscape, in James, is never a smooth surface or simple stage-set, there to offer picturesque consolations. Rather it is a realm that snags, bites and troubles. He repeatedly invokes the pastoral – that green dream of natural tranquillity and social order – only to traumatise it.
James’s influence, or his example, has rarely been more strongly with us than now. For there is presently apparent, across what might broadly be called landscape culture, a fascination with these Jamesian ideas of unsettlement and displacement. In music, literature, art, film and photography, as well as in new and hybrid forms and media, the English eerie is on the rise. A loose but substantial body of work is emerging that explores the English landscape in terms of its anomalies rather than its continuities, that is sceptical of comfortable notions of “dwelling” and “belonging”, and of the packagings of the past as “heritage”, and that locates itself within a spectred rather than a sceptred isle.
I think the eerie is also a theme that runs through English comics, although Macfarlane doesn’t mention it, and I’m hard pressed to think of specific examples. Gothic psychogeography is very much Alan Moore territory, and it feels like it should be in Warren Ellis’s wheelhouse too, but have either of them written anything explicitly about the horror of the English countryside?
More wisdom from designer Michael Bierut, this time in an interview with Dave Benton for Behance’s 99U:
I have to admit I don’t like working on projects where I sense that the cosmetic side of design is meant to be the main differentiator. My design work isn’t interesting enough to differentiate something that’s not interesting otherwise. I look for things that are full of interest and that I am interested in, where I can really see the raison d’etre and the need that they are fulfilling in the world. If you really get all that, then you can calibrate what the appropriate response is design-wise.
I am not one of those designers who are eager to expand the role of a graphic designer. I’m a graphic designer. I know I’m good at that. I’m not an expert about customer service. I’m not an expert about coming up with the valuation of an IPO. If someone comes to me and has a shitty product, I will say tell them upfront that I don’t know why people would use this and that, to me, it doesn’t make sense, and I’m not sure a logo is what they need right now. But I’m not someone who is dying to have a seat at the table and have input earlier in the process; I’m surrounded by people who have goddamn opinions about things they don’t know anything about, and I don’t want to be one of those people.
The accordion-playing Kitching has featured on the blog before of course, but over the course of his career he has worked as a compositor, typographer, graphic designer, teacher, and poster artist. He founded the Typography Workshop in 1989 and, according to designer Derek Birdsall (renowned for his cover designs at Penguin amongst other things), Kitching single-handedly “breathed new life into the dying embers of letterpress” by teaching a new generation of designers how to compose type by hand.
A collaboration with Pentagram partner Angus Hyland, and designed in-house by Alexandre Coco, the book itself contains 39 alphabets shown letter by letter, presented from A to Z. All the founts are wood letter founts from Kitching’s collection, and every image in the book was printed by hand on a Vandercook no. 3 proof press.
It really is a thing of beauty. Printed on thick, creamy paper, the letter forms and page layouts are quirky and charming. The colours and metallic ink are vibrant and surprising. Even better, it is also a teaser of sort — Laurence King recently announced it will be publishing a monograph of Kitching’s work in 2016. Can’t wait.