The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Something for the Weekend

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Beep Beep — Nicholas Carr (The Shallows) reviews The Information by James Gleick:

As a celebration of human ingenuity, The Information is a deeply hopeful book. But it ends on an ambivalent note. The mathematical analysis of information, Gleick points out, entails the “ruthless sacrifice” of meaning, the very thing that “gives information its value and its purpose.” To the number-crunchers and code-wranglers who design our world-engirdling information networks, a message’s meaning is beside the point. A bit is a bit is a bit. As Shannon himself dryly noted, meaning is “irrelevant to the engineering problem.”

And yes, that cover was designed by Peter Mendelsund.

Beginners Edited — The original draft of Beginners by Raymond Carver compared with the final version of the story, retitled and published as What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, edited by Gordon Lish. It’s from a couple of years ago, but still fascinating if you’ve never seen it (via Biblioklept).

Collector’s Items — The Guardian on the renaissance of chapbooks:

The 16th century merriments that became the chapman’s stock in trade were historically cheap, crudely made and illustrated using recycled woodcuts.

Today’s chapbooks, which are enjoying a revival along with independent regional publishing, bear little resemblance to the roughly produced books of the past. They are objects of beauty in their own right, with emphasis on original design as well as being a showcase for original writing. Pamphlet-sized but glossy, and more book than leaflet, they are highly covetable, which partly explains their appeal.

And finally…

A Curious Journey— The story of Margret and H.A. Rey, the creators of Curious George, at More Intelligent Life:

On June 12th 1940, the couple left Paris. The Nazis arrived less than two days later.

The Reys made their way to the south of France, and spent several weeks in a makeshift refugee camp in a high-school gymnasium before proceeding to Lisbon. From there they arranged passage to Brazil, and months later to New York. They carried with them the first drawings for the Curious George books, and showed them to police as proof of their occupation. The first book, “Curious George”, was published in 1941. The little monkey arrives in New York and strolls off of the ship with a smile, holding his papers in one hand and a little red valise in the other. A policeman salutes in welcome.

An exhibition of art by the Reys is on display at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco until March 13th.

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One Comment

  1. The cover design for The Information is so simple but striking, and not just visually.

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