Surely, you can picture them: the Penguin books with the colored covers, the little medalian at the bottom with the line-drawing of the bird logo? That design and layout are the work of the great typographer and designer Jan Tschichold. His most famous book, The New Typography, was a firebrand call from a young designer — one who later came to disown some of the more radical ideas he earlier held (I wrote about Tschichold, and how he got in trouble with the Nazis, and his relationship with Penguin in this essay).
This essay by Robin Rendle — intended for web designers, but which only gets into nitty towards the end — is a call for typography to be of its moment. Its moment, right now, is the web.
What’s wrong with a book made in the time of the early 19th century author and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, you might ask? Personally, I wouldn’t argue with all that much since these books were often quite the spectacle. According to Tschichold, however, books designed in the 19th century were for the people and the technology of the time; they solved problems that were entirely inapplicable to the needs of his own century a hundred years later.
What a choice: join the CIA, or attend the Iowa Writers' Workshop? Jennifer duBois recounts her choice.
When I was twenty-three, I was hired by the CIA. I was working at a Catholic school at the time, coaching squash and teaching seventh-grade social studies—which was funny, since I had never before seen a squash game before and was not even so much as a lapsed Catholic. I lived behind the school in a former convent where the only consistently functioning lights were a pair of glowing red exit signs. My prevailing feeling that year was one of intense personal absurdity, and it was in this spirit that I applied to the CIA (I liked international relations, and who knew they had an online application?) and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (I liked writing stories, and what the hell?). These things certainly didn’t make any less sense than coaching squash and living in a convent—though they weren’t really ambitions as much as gestures: reflections of my general hope that I would, someday, do something else. Each was something in between a dice roll and a delusion, a promissory note and a private joke to no one but myself.
Lori Maddox wrote about having sex with David Bowie when she was 15, but has wrote glowingly about the experience. Jia Tolentino looks at how we should treat our icons in the light of the modern day, given the light of the murky water they swam in, then.
There are no precise enough words or satisfying enough conclusions to fully account for her story, or any like it. It’s easy to see what Bowie represents here: a sexual norm that has always appallingly favored men, and the abuse that stems from and surpasses even that. It is easy to denounce the part Bowie played in this, even with any number of purportedly mitigating factors: the political context, Maddox’s story, the fact that he lived with generosity and openness, the less generous fact that his synapses were perpetually blitzed with cocaine. It is less easy to turn over what Maddox evinces in this narrative, from the late 1970s to her account of it now—which is that women have developed the vastly unfair, nonetheless remarkable, and still essential ability to find pleasure and freedom in a system that oppresses them.