Traditional on the Outside

Last October, I found a review of Patricia Marx’s 2011 book Starting From Happy in the New York Times and pasted a hard copy of part of the review in my typography journal because I loved the idea of the author illustrating her own book and filling it with “pen-and-ink illustrations; pie charts; footnotes; graphological analysis, even her own signature; a catalog of punctuation; another of pasta shapes; a supposed survey from her publisher; letters from cranky readers; and 26 desperate lines of barn-animal noises.” The online review, although less favorable than the printed one, has a sample of the book’s pie charts.

Yet the outside carrier form of the book looks pretty traditional. The NPR book review displays a rather standard looking book form.

I took the NYT Book Review inclusion of a book sprinkled with experimental forms of fake letters and crazy lists as a good sign for those of us who want to push the content envelope. Marx is a contributing writer to The New Yorker so maybe Simon and Schuster felt comfortable allowing her to expand the form of the traditional book a bit. In any case, good for Marx and she’s inspired me. How much more powerful and telling is a protagonist pie chart of How Imogene Spent Her Summer Vacation than a verbal description of that summer? A picture can paint 1000 words.  



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