The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Obama and Books


The New York Times has published a transcript of Michiko Kakutani’s recent conversation with US President Barak Obama about books:

Some of the craft of writing a good speech is identical to any other good writing: Is that word necessary? Is it the right word? Is there a rhythm to it that feels good? How does it sound aloud?

I actually think that one of the useful things about speechwriting is reminding yourself that the original words are spoken, and that there is a sound, a feel to words that, even if you’re reading silently, transmits itself.

So in that sense, I think there will be some consistency.

But this is part of why it was important to pick up the occasional novel during the presidency, because most of my reading every day was briefing books and memos and proposals. And so working that very analytical side of the brain all the time sometimes meant you lost track of not just the poetry of fiction, but also the depth of fiction.

Fiction was useful as a reminder of the truths under the surface of what we argue about every day and was a way of seeing and hearing the voices, the multitudes of this country.

You can read the article that resulted from this conversation here.

Surely there are few other politicians — let alone world leaders — who could speak so intelligently and at such length about contemporary literature. 

And, on a somewhat related note, I just wanted to mention the Women’s March on Washington on January 21. The official logo for march — reminiscent (in a good way) of Saul Bass’s 1978 logo for the Girl Scouts of America (revamped in 2010 by Original Champions of Design) — was designed by Nicole LaRue. There are sister marches around the world — find your local event here — and you can download typographic posters for occasion from Counter Type.




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