The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Midweek Miscellany


How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

A new cover from John Gall, seen at Peter Mendelsund’s JACKET MECHANICAL. Am I the only one who wants to hear these two in conversation? Dear NPR, could you get on that please?

Soft in the Middle — James Surowiecki looks at how midrange companies are being pressured by both high-end products at one end and ‘just good enough’ products at the other in the New Yorker (via Kottke):

The products made by midrange companies are neither exceptional enough to justify premium prices nor cheap enough to win over value-conscious consumers. Furthermore, the squeeze is getting tighter every day… This doesn’t mean that companies are going to abandon the idea of being all things to all people. If you’re already in the middle of the market, it’s hard to shift focus—as G.M. has discovered. And the allure of a big market share is often hard to resist, even if it doesn’t translate into profits.

I think we going to see this more in publishing with the midlist losing out to quick, cheap and ‘just good enough’ e-books and expensive, beautifully packaged hardcovers.

Somewhere Between Skeptic and Proselytizer — John Williams founder of The Second Pass interviewed at The Virginia Quarterly Review blog:

I think the way books are written about has been opened up in healthy ways. I like that there are more amateur (and semi-pro and pro) voices on the Internet, in the sense that it’s not just the unimaginative circle wherein writers of a certain kind of book review another example of that kind of book written by someone else. I’m not the first (or even the hundredth) to think that can lead to a lot of back-scratching or dry summation rather than forcefully argued opinion. It’s also true that the Internet has been great for, say, literature in translation, where entire sites (like Three Percent) can be devoted to a subject that gets less attention than it should in mainstream outlets. But as for how literary careers are made, I don’t think that’s changed as much as the tech apostles would like to believe.

The Incredible Book-Making Boy — Super talented author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers, whose new book The Heart and the Bottle was published earlier this month, interviewed at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast:

I begin with a single idea… and then tease that out in my sketchbook with hundreds of other drawings and pieces of writing that explore how the narrative can grow and extend into something that is satisfying. Once I’ve got a basic plot, I work with my editor in streamlining everything down to fit the thirty-two-page format…  Getting the story to flow between those thirty-two pages is probably the most difficult part. It’s like directing a film, where the pace needs to be set and decisions made of what goes where. It’s at this point that many of the compositions get cut. There is a careful balance between what the pictures are showing and what the words are saying, and if something is shown, it often doesn’t need to be said.

And finally…

Contemporaries, He Yanming

Chinese Book Covers seen at the excellent Ephemera Assemblyman.

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  1. Illustration on that (amazing) Gall cover is by Benbo George

    Mendelsund art directed

  2. Thanks Ben. You are always a great source of information. :-)

    Congratulations to you and your partner on Samson Rex by the way. 10lbs 9oz. Holy F. Smoke.

  3. great post! lot’s of goodies.

  4. Ha! John Gall tricked me. For a moment, I thought my browser froze when I scrolled down.

  5. The last cover is really good, it shows that shortcomings in terms of type design can become an asset in terms of graphic design! Thanks for sharing.

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