The Sunday Post for February 10, 2019

Nicola Griffith in conversation with Alexis M Smith

Seattle's own Nicola Griffith, talking to Portland's own Alexis M Smith, published by the Northwest's own journal Moss. A great conversation about writing, earning a PdD, and her most recent novel _So Lucky_. Maybe I'm biased to interviews with Griffith because an interview with her appeared on the launch day of the Seattle Review of Books, but linking to conversations with her is an easy choice. She has a compelling frame on the world, and seeing through her eyes for a brief time is always a privilege.

The books that made me want to be a writer? All of them. None of them. Every single book I’ve ever read has added to what I know of story and writing; those books made me the writer I am. But did any of them make me want to be a writer?

To me there’s a difference between wanting to Be a Writer and wanting to write. I wanted to write early on; pinning down a description or a moment or a feeling felt like a triumph. I didn’t decide to be a writer until I was in my twenties. Or perhaps it might be more true to say I didn’t realize I wanted to be a writer until I was in my twenties. I had a dream about being at a fancy awards dinner, and winning, and waking up knowing it was the Booker Prize, and that I would win it one day.

The new elite’s phoney crusade to save the world – without changing anything

Isn't it just awful when doing the right thing causes you to lose a bit of the privilege and position in the world? Best to make yourself feel good without doing nothing at all, then.

A successful society is a progress machine. It takes in the raw material of innovations and produces broad human advancement. America’s machine is broken. The same could be said of others around the world. And now many of the people who broke the progress machine are trying to sell us their services as repairmen.

Writing for the Movies: A Letter from Hollywood, 1962

If you're a sucker for classic Hollywood stories like I am, then you'll love this piece from old-school screenwriter Daniel Fuchs, who died in 1993 at age 84. I mean, name dropping Dorothy Parker? I'm in.

When I came to California twenty-five years ago, I was taken with the immense, brilliantly clean sunshine that hovered over everything. I wrote troubled pieces about Hollywood—a diary that I actually kept, an article titled “Dream City, or The Drugged Lake.” The studio where I worked, RKO on Gower Street, seemed drenched and overpowered by the sun. The studio paths were empty; you heard a composer some­where listlessly working up a tune for a musical picture: “Oh, I adore you, adore you, adore you—you wonderful thing!” The people stayed hidden inside their offices, and what they did there, I didn’t know. I was made welcome to the community with a grace I somehow hadn’t expected—by the wonderful Epstein brothers, who broke the way for me and looked out for me; by Dorothy Parker, who telephoned and introduced me to a glittering group of people, or a group I thought glittering; by John Garfield, with his honest and whole-hearted happy spirits; and by a man named Barney Glazer, now dead, at one time head of Paramount Studios. Mr. Glazer had a beautiful home on Chevy Chase Drive in Beverly Hills. It was surrounded by carefully tended grounds— gardens and strawberry patches, patios, a championship enclosed tennis court, a championship swimming pool, dressing rooms, a gymnasium. After the week’s work, starting with Saturday afternoon, guests assembled there and a sort of continuous party went on until Monday morning. Mr. Glazer trotted through the assemblage, ignoring the entertainment and the championship tennis court, bent on his own pursuits. He was interested in fine china and objets d’art, in carpentry work, in watching over his dogs who were getting old and decrepit and kept falling into the swimming pool; the dogs, when they hurt themselves, would huddle motionless and just wait until Mr. Glazer came hurrying up, to scold and take care of them. With his open generosity, he took pains to make sure I felt easy among the company at those parties, and I visited his home often, appearing on most of the weekends. Many kinds of people were there, but mainly the old-timers, men who were firmly a part of the movie business—grizzled and heavy-eyed, patient, pestered by arthritis, sciatica, and other vexations. They smiled at me. They were amused by my inex­perience and newness to their community. They liked me and I think they wanted to be liked. But they would never parry my questions. They wouldn’t respond to my inquiries and doubts. They knew that if I was to learn anything about their way of living and working, it would be no good unless I found it out by myself. “I would argue with you,” one of them said to me, “but if I win the argument, what do I win?” They had their minds set on other things, and time was short.

Beware: book covers ahead! Part 3

The intersection of design nerdery and book nerdery is the most perfect nerdery of all. I love stories of cover designers who worked for years in the trade, and this look at the design of Faber & Faber covers by Mike Dempsey is an absolute joy.

In 1981, John McConnell, then a Pentagram partner, was approached by Robert McCrum, editorial director of Faber & Faber, to look at the design of their books. The firm had a long tradition of handling the design of the inside text, rather than have an external printer dictate it. The same had applied over at the paperback house Penguin Books, carefully monitored initially by Jan Tschichold, who later handed on the baton to Hans Schmoller as head of typography and design for three decades. But all that eventually ended when cost-cutting CEO Peter Mayer discovered that it was far cheaper to photograph the hardback publisher’s text and reduce it to Penguin’s format, rather than reset it in Penguin’s house style.

But Faber & Faber still cherished their own bespoke typographical standards originally overseen by Richard de la Mare and responsible for bringing in Berthold Wolpe, who had been designing jackets for Victor Gollancz. He joined Faber's in-house production studio in 1941 during a time of wartime shortages Wolpe's 2 colour line, non illustrated, bold typographical designs fitted the bill during this period of austerity. He stayed with Faber & Faber until his retirement in 1975 having clocked up 1500 jacket designs. The story goes that after Wolpe's departure Faber & Faber invited Herbert Spencer to look at the design of the inside of their books, but his suggestions were frowned upon by the tight-knit design production team, well entrenched in Wolpe's design doctrine, so Spencer’s suggestions went no further. Meanwhile, canny John McConnell realised that it would be pointless to mess with the well-versed internal production team and suggested to McCrum that he not take that aspect on but instead look at the identity. Back then, that usually meant a new logo and letterhead – job done. But McConnell had other ideas. He had always been impressed by Penguin’s design legacy: the very thing that had been lost courtesy of Peter Mayer’s economics and personal influence over the presentation of covers.