Tuesday 19 October 2010

ISTD ‘Talking Books’ Recollected

I am indebted to Paulus M Dreibholz  not only for these charming pictures of last week’s ‘Talking Books’ evening at the Russian Club Gallery but also for the invitation to take part in the first place. It was indeed a pleasure and an honour to address such a large and enthusiastic audience. The real interest for me, however, lay as always in the opportunity to talk about text with those who see it primarily as a design element, no more no less. It is true, as Fraser Muggeridge observed (recalling the words of Fluxus bibliographer Ulises Carrión), that writers do not produce books – they produce texts instead. Unfortunately, these texts mostly come freighted with literary forms that have adapted themselves all too readily to the conventions of the printed page. Writers do not so much produce texts as follow the rules of literary production, turning out novels, plays, poems or histories. What I find so refreshing about talking with typographers and graphic designers is that, from their perspective, the text has the potential to become another piece of information design. This is why Norman O. Brown’s Love’s Body suggested itself so readily to as the subject of my talk: the simple agreement between the author, the editor and the designer to create a template, in which Brown could present his text as a series of self-contained aphorisms, each supported by its own individual bibliographic references, represents one of the cleanest and most elegant transformations of a text into a book I have ever encountered. There were brighter, more inventive and certainly more flamboyant publications on display that night, but none that held out the same promise – of collaboration between designers, writers and publishers to produce texts that no longer represent thought but express it instead. My thanks and appreciation to all who took part.

See also:
Love’s Body – Norman O. Brown
Norman O. Brown’s ‘Love’s Body’ at ISTD’s ‘Talking Books’ Stammtisch

Pictured above: the audience before the event (in the background KH in conversation with fellow speaker Hana Tanimura); view from the back of the hall; KH with hardcover and mass-market paperback editions of Love’s Body, both from 1966; (from left to right) fellow speakers Gary Bird (partially obscured) Caroline Roberts, Fraser Muggeridge and Gilmar Wendt in the front row.

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