Sober and Sane Qualities

Sober and Sane Qualities

Another snarky typeface note!

Ok. It’s possible that it wasn’t intended as such, but as I’m the one reading it, I have deemed it thus.

The note comes from a book titled, “Censoring an Iranian Love Story” by Shahriar Mandanipour. A well-loved and controversial contemporary Iranian author, this is Mandanipour’s first novel available in English. It’s a sweet and tragic story, told in beautifully descriptive language that’s discreet yet imaginative. It’s also a love story that unfolds amongst the books in the library. As a lover of libraries myself, I’ve always considered such environs the most romantic of places because so much history exists there…people’s thoughts that never die away, insight and wisdom documented and shared with future generations, observations that change one’s perceptions, information that requires a response from the reader, but best of all, the expressions from deep within one heart addressed to the same secret parts of another…all of which sometimes require a revolution of some sort.

As the typeface note describes, this book is actually two books intertwined together to form one large framework of a very intricate existence. The lighter font is the story that can be published and is officially being told…except for the parts that have been stricken through for future removal yet are still readable. The darker font is the story the author wishes to tell, explaining why he cannot.

Sorrow and Joy weave through and manage to co-exist as the characters face many obstacles in their love for one another. But, by the end of the book, through all its alleys and byways, the author has melded me, the reader, and the characters into an intimacy that might be called friendship…even though we exist in culture so vastly different from one another…and in spite of the little fact that they might not even truly exist (my existence is a different topic altogether).

In spite of such potentially heart-rending material, the author’s clever and witty sense of humor allows for the reader to come away with hope. In spite of so many rules and limitations and arbitrary decisions, one can still think for one’s self and maintain humor in challenging situations…in this way, hope is kept alive. Such a delightful bit on the typeface at the end of the book proves rather serendipitous in this light. I don’t think the author could have asked for a better Epilogue than “reading qualities [of] lightness and grace [with] sober and sane qualities.”


Dreadful California


This is a classic example of a fabulous old book. It’s a typical travel journal for those who didn’t have the luxury of traveling. This author, who later reveals himself to be a bit of a nut-job (who wouldn’t with such a name), seems to be a trifle disillusioned that his quest for gold during the 1849 Gold Rush resulted in zilch and is determined to squawk to anyone who will listen. Invariably, simply because there were few to refute the traveler’s outrageous claims, the resulting piece of literature is hysterically entertaining…particularly since there isn’t a single reference to earthquakes…the one thing that non-Californians fear most about this state.

I always marvel that one was gutsy enough to write such foolishness, but even more astonished that a publisher published it! Just when I think political pundits and non-stop commentators cannot be more irrelevant, rude and aggravating, I come across a title like this and realize I live in an excessively verbally boring and illiterate time. Here’s the complete title filled with excellent vocabulary:

Dreadful California: being a true and scandalous account of the barbarous civilization, licentious morals, crude manners and depravities, inclement climate and niggling resources, together with various other offensive and calamitous details of life in the Golden State. By Hinton Helper.

It’s not often one is gifted with such a title. Who, besides lawyers, talks about licentious morals any more? I’m not certain many people have been taught proper manners anymore, so there certainly aren’t critics remarking on one’s particularly crude ones. And niggling resources??? This is word choice at its best. What a more refreshing way to describe the present economy. I think I may have to start a new dictionary entry for this moment in history: A period marked by niggling resources.

All Fonts and Sizes

Misnamed Janson

I love books. I love everything about them…from the cover to the ink. I love to examine all the parts of it to see how it was put together. For instance, a leather binding has quite different potentials to a cloth-over-board binding. A leather binding can have tooling in the leather, allowing for decorations to be carved into the leather itself, whereas a cloth-over-board binding requires the decoration to be stamped rather than engraved.

Then the pages are interesting. Depending on when or where a book is published, the pages might be printed on a large sheet and then folded into smaller sections. The number of folds determines the size of the finished book as well as the number of pages contained in a signature, or grouping of pages.

The paper is also different from book to book and from century to century. Some paper is thick and heavy, others are light and thin. The color varies as well as the texture. One of my favorite parts of paper analysis is the discovery of the now rare-to-find watermark. The watermark identifies the maker of the paper, which might be a different person than the originator depending on the century.

Other items of interest are the ink and its color and smell, the flyleaves, any tipped in pages of portraits and the way the entire creation is held together at the spine. But, the one aspect that I love more than anything, is the typeface.

As a child, I would pour over my father’s typeface catalogs and marvel at all of the different ways one could make the letter A. How is it possible that one letter could have so many renditions? It seemed as though the possibilities were endless and they inspired me. So, whenever I was bored in class, I inevitably found myself practicing writing the alphabet in all sorts of interesting ways.

It is understandable, then, that one of my greatest delights is when I turn to the end of a book (sometimes it’s what greets me at the front), and discover a little blurb about the typeface…such as the one above. I love the terse description…as though the writer himself is Nicholas Kis who is still bitter about his font being named after someone else. What happened there? Who is Janson? Did he sneak into Kis’ print shop in Amsterdam (once a typeface capital) and steal the entire set of type moments after it had been created? That would be quite the heist! What fun it would be to discover this story and discover the love and the hate and passion and angst behind a simple style of typeface.

Simply Quiet


I love picture books…the simplicity and harmony between the illustrations and words always sucks me into my world of imagination and fantasy. I have attempted to write picture books, but have yet to capture the beauty of “less is more.” It is much harder to craft a children’s book than I ever thought.

I came upon this book several months ago, but it continues to haunt me as one of the most beautifully crafted books for children that I have ever encountered. The illustrations so magically convey the many meanings of the quiet moments portrayed, that I get lost in my memories of moments when I have experienced that type of quiet. While not all of the examples of quiet are happy ones (Thinking of a good reason you were drawing on the wall quiet), they are all so thoughtfully presented that every child can relate to them making this book an excellent way to explore the emotions and feelings that arise in these moments of quiet. 

My favorite one, “Right before you yell, ‘SURPRISE!” always makes me giggle…for invariably, that’s the moment when I realize I have to use the loo.

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