Tuesday, July 02, 2013

P&P and we

2013: 200 years of Pride and Prejudice.

That peacock cover, and the 1880s P&P/Northanger Abbey? WANT.

This P&P retrospective is a classic example of how the intersection of art, design, and literature critically influence (and are influenced by) our rapidly moving culture. I really don't think this is something we often think about whilst picking up a Penguin Classics version of Austen, or Bronte, or Nabokov (or, before you know it: Barbery, or Carlotto, or Meek) at the bookstore. We know we often choose books by their covers (even if, as the author of the slideshow posits, it is embarrassing to admit) but we remain somewhat oblivious to the ideas that went into the why of the approximate size of our beach read, or what is on the cover, or the why of that font as we toss it into our messenger bag. We also don't often entertain how such a critical intersection can be so misunderstood -- even reviled.

Consider that nerdly pursuit, the comic book. Equally a literary and visual art genre, often produced monthly and serially, which positions it perfectly on the pulse of society; a genre that has not only birthed the biggest film blockbusters of every summer season in significant memory, but of late has become a medium that is primarily consumed by adults -- a fact that has revolutionized the industry. All but gone are the crudely drawn, sometimes barely coherent storylines of some major comics of the 70s and 80s that catered to 12 year old boys (and those 12 year olds masquerading as men). If you are going to make it in the comics industry today, the rule of the day is richness: in artistry, design, plotline.

I was sitting in a cafe with Trevor a few months ago, and a friend happened to stop by our table with one of her friends, a man about our age. We had just picked up some weekly comics and were in the process of catching up on our favorite storylines. Our friend's friend saw what we were reading and said, "wow, you're not ashamed to read these in public?"


Stigma prevails; yet, while I lament the ignorance of the brilliant cultural shifts one can see manifest in part through the appreciation of these flimsy paper books, I'm also pretty sure the nerdly reputation of consuming these major tastemakers is something most aficionados wear with pride. I know I do.

Some folks are aware that I am one half of a team publishing chapbooks by California poets with art by California artists. I am really blessed to have a coterie of friends and acquaintances who are vastly talented, challenging, and driven (and community-minded!) in their pursuits, both literary and visual. I also feel blessed to be involving myself in something that not only expresses my love of contemporary American poetry and visual art, but also what those things can say about a moment in time and space.

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