May 23, 2010

making (local) literature

Last week, I attended a book launch for a new novel that I had a hand in producing. With the production of Dora Dueck's new novel, This Hidden Thing, I was able to put some of my book history theory into practice, as I attempted to match the book's interior/exterior design to the aesthetic sensibility of its audience: an audience whose taste in literary books has been shaped and informed by other literary books. In other words, I had the task of making this book look like a legitimate novel; and with a novel this good --a novel that deserves a wide readership-- I hardly needed any extra motivation. (To learn more about the novel, click here for the news release.)

I should say, first of all, that I'm very pleased with how the book looks and feels. At the launch, someone asked me what font I'd used. Before I even finished saying "Times New Roman" we were both laughing sheepishly. It's a choice that seems too obvious. But it was a decision that was quite carefully thought out. The choice of font was even more significant for me this time around because, during the early stages of this book's production, my studies at U of M had focused on the relationship between aesthetic decisions in book production and the corresponding ideological context. Although I dealt with the relationship through the work of an early modern Venetian printer named Aldus Manutius (in an appeal to his humanist patrons, he was one of the first to use the italic typeface and the first to publish the classics (Virgil, Ovid, etc.) in a pocket-sized (octavo) format), the basic point of correlation is still very useful, especially in book production.

It's been said that the cover of a book is the best advertisement you can make at the level of its production. I mostly agree with this, but, looking at trends in the history of book production, one soon notices that interior design (font, layout, paper, etc.) is also means something to a book's readers (and whether it conveys something "good" or not is often dependent on its continuity with the tradition of literary book production); it is also, in this sense, an advertisement.

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