The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Something for the Weekend

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Snowstorm…something, something… Snowstorm… Hmm, what? Oh right. Here we go…

Pick Up a Pearson — A profile of book designer David Pearson in the New York Times:

 The chillingly eloquent jacket of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is the work of the British graphic designer David Pearson He is responsible for the design of four more books that have been reissued by Penguin in the Great Orwell series of paperbacks. From the horror movie typography on “Animal Farm” to the Vorticist-inspired illustration that Mr. Pearson commissioned from Paul Catherall for “Down and Out in Paris and London,” each of the covers exhibits the wit, thoughtfulness and ingenuity that have come to distinguish his work.

“David manages to combine respect for tradition with playfulness and a light touch,” said the graphic design historian Emily King. “He also has a brilliant understanding of the book as a physical object.”

Kvelling — Gerald Howard on the 50th anniversary of the New York Review of Books, at Salon:

Last week, my colleague at Doubleday came by my office with an austere-looking 11-by-15-inch broadsheet. Good God! It was a facsimile edition of the first issue of the New York Review of Books, Feb. 1, 1963. The advertising director and I sat there kvelling over this wondrously manifested printed object from another universe, with its Murderers Row of reviewers weighing in on many books that all these years later still matter, its old-school book ads with their quaint frontal appeals to the reader’s higher cultural aspirations…

The Literaries — A great essay Eddie Campbell about comics criticism at The Comics Journal:

Moving sideways at this point takes me to another recurring argument that falls within the jurisdiction of the present rant. I refer to the incessant debate over who authored Marvel Comics, was it Stan Lee or was it Jack Kirby?… The literaries are inclined to debate whether the furnishing of a plot is enough of a claim to authorship, or whether the real writer in this case was the artist. Once the argument gets started it can go in any direction, and is just as likely to deny that a plot was ever given in the first place, because it is obligatory that everybody who wasn’t there have an opinion and take sides. None of that has ever mattered, as far as I’m concerned, though I acknowledge that the ownership of successful movie franchises could make a difference to this party or that. But the movies do not interest me and I do not care. None of them have ever captured the thing that made Marvel comics exciting to me in 1965 when I discovered them for myself.

And finally…

Amazon Unpacked — A long, must-read piece at the FT on Amazon’s warehouse in the former mining -town of Rugeley, Staffordshire:

As online shopping explodes in Britain, helping to push traditional retailers such as HMV out of business, more and more jobs are moving from high-street shops into warehouses like this one. Under pressure from politicians and the public over its tax arrangements, Amazon has tried to stress how many jobs it is creating across the country at a time of economic malaise. The undisputed behemoth of the online retail world has invested more than £1bn in its UK operations and announced last year that it would open another three warehouses over the next two years and create 2,000 more permanent jobs. Amazon even had a quote from David Cameron, the prime minister, in its September press release. “This is great news, not only for those individuals who will find work, but for the UK economy,” he said.

People in Rugeley, Staffordshire, felt exactly the same way in the summer of 2011 when they heard Amazon was going to occupy the empty blue warehouse on the site of the old coal mine. It seemed like this was the town’s chance to reinvent itself after decades of economic decline. But as they have had a taste of its “jobs of the future”, their excitement has died down…

You can probably guess where it goes from there (but you should still read it)…

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