Here are 4 books I read in the past, or in a recent past, that I keep in mind when planning a book. Two of these books are very informative, they relate to form, the context of publishing and it's consequences in the surrounding society. The other two are also informative, but they use a more literary, academic and artistic connotation in their language, exploring the art of writing,
'The Form of the Book Book', Occasional Papers, London 2009/10 is a compilation of essays that report on how some exemplary books came to life, the ins and outs of their publishing processes, their historical background (from as early as 1912) and some insight from the artists themselves into their practice. It talks about form, and a generation of artists and designers that initiated the foundations of what, till the day, one considers to be 'good design'. Having books as a case study in some of the chapters, it develops less critical thinking but a clear image of how, for example, Le Corbusier kept a book designing career intertwined with that of what he is best known for, architecture, and how his book style developed into a less architectural rigidity, moving towards the spirit of Dada. This book emphasis the role of the designer as a poetic functionalist. It approaches different styles in a all high end category, focusing on the intrensic relationship between typography and content. This focus on typography manifests additionally through conversations with curators and niche reports on the importance of certain events in the book scene of the 21st Century (i.e. The Most Beautiful Suiss Books Competition), detailed plans of work and design processes, always useful for the working designer.
'Inside Book Pubilshing', Routledge, London and New York, 2008 is an essential tool to devise plans. It shows you a detailed map of how publishing is, gives you enough historical background to understand how publishing became what it is now. It dates of 2008, the year of the ebook statement, showing the preliminairies of its conception. It focus a lot on business models and how publishing houses managed througout the years, explaining problems, solutions, and the variety of roles involved in all these processes. It is packed with statistical and numerical information, but it is clearly layed out, and well summarised in conclusive paragraphs. This information stems all across all types of publishing as this book is comprehensive. A tool which by giving me the commercial insight of publishing as a whole, made me decide to stay on the artistic side of books. I am passionate about designing books, using modern and traditional techniques, by which I mean I am akeen of making use of software to make a book pay respects to the reader: engage the reader. For that, I feel that good design (by which I mean examples on the 'The Form of the Book Book' and other examples in the Graphic Artists section of this Reading List) is necessary: function/form works with content and the artisticness of the book unfolds along the discovery of their relationship. The point of the publishing industry, as a whole, as it stands, is to sell enough books to cover the costs of investment. If it happens to be a best-seller, then, you are having a good day finally, otherwise, the investment is great, huge, enourmous, and you have to be extremely knowledgeable of your target market. Niche target markets are always harder to hit, hence books for the masses are prioritised over books which reflect more of an expression of the author's sui generis. There are many aspects to it, but I think that people's interest for Book Arts has increased, because some really good work is out there, coming from resilient smaller publishers and ever more emerging self-publishing authors. The mainstream publishing Industry is getting smaller and smaller, having big publishing houses buying other big publishing houses, merging into a monopoly of production. I am extremely happy to be part of a generation that is fighting against the disapearance of independent thought, through books, and certainly fighting against the vanishing of the book as an object.
'Diálogo com algumas imagens', Guimarães Editores, Lisboa, 2009 ('Dialogues with some images) is written by Vasco Graça Moura, who was a writer, poet, politician, democrat, essay writter and translator. Through his translation works, he developed a virtuosism with words, and his style, as Peter Hanenberg describes is that of being 'the master of saying by not saying, as poetry really is that: to virtuously say and unsay at the same time, building a fictional world of authentic experiences'1. Somehow, this sounds to me as methaphysical extremes. I see myself, my life experience, in such light: I experience extreme feelings and I can only make sense of them by bouncing in between until I find the middle, however the middle is never a stagnant point, as we change as humans all the time. This is why drifting with words is important: conclusions are possible on a timeline, but more importantly is to explore all the trajectories in between those opposites/extremes, so your character comes out in an expression of you, of the questions that inhabit your intelect. Some questions will be answered, in the meantime, the satisfaction of producing a written piece that encompasses critical thinking and a powerfull rethoric poetic style, is the therapy. Vasco Graça Moura focus on the relationship between word and image, the image being painting works from Durer, Skapikanis, Velasquez, Paula Rego, José Rodrigues, Julio Pomar, whilst he himself focuses on analyising their work, factualy, writing about these as a stream of consciousness, creating himself the poetic version in words of these plastic works. A genius of word pleasure, something to aspire to. He touches my favourite styles and creates this engaging fusion of essay and poetry (not leaving out its inherent fantastical nature nor the well-documented approach of a brilliant essayist).
'The Surrealists Revolutionairies in Art and Writing', Tate, London, 2002 is a titlle I aquired in 2003, and eagerly read. One of the very few childhood heroes I had was Salvador Dali. So it was since an early age I started practicing automatic writing, and trying to take minutes from random conversations in coffee shops to then create a piece of writing. Automatic writing is very hard to do, but the Surrealists had other techniques to make all the post-war trauma surface into artistic expression. It was also from an early age that I pictured all the literary bohemian meetings, and a sense of collective experimentation towards an intelectual aim. At this point in history, manifestos were abundant (Cubism, Futurism...), as so many artists, theorists, philosophers had so much to make sense (or not) of. This book shows that an Art movement is made of a solidification of many forms of art. The unison between word and image is in Surrealism elevated to the Fine Art stage, a dynamic complementative alliance in form and intention: as much as automatic writing came to exist, so did collage as an art form. They both attempt to disconnect the common sense within one's mind, and by composing with items 'that are given' to them, the immediacy of the practice makes these artists believe this process is further away from a conscious level. Another recurrent and prominent theme is the omnirical world, which is aimed at representing the sub-conscious level and the altered states in which some of these works were produced, reflect on the techniques and dark, surreal worlds of the painters. It is in this book I read a quote by Magritte, which deeply inspired the way I see things: 'images, ideas and words are different determinations of a single thing: thought'. He also declared that his main aim was to render thought visible. I too, want to render my thoughts visible, and I feel that I can only do that using a combination of materials and techniques. I have been dealing wih 2D mainly, always trying to integrate either a spacial component, or a 3D aspect to my work. It's time for the process to reverse. I see things in 3D first, with different textures, different feels, and only after in 2D, therefore that is how my practice should be: start the project where my vision of the project starts.
1 - translated by Inês Ferreira in HANENBERG, Peter, 'Navegação pela terra-firme da poesia de Vasco Graça Moura', Catholic University of Portugal, MáThesis 9 2000 159-171