The Paris Review Daily

Posts Tagged ‘design’

The Mail Room

November 25, 2013 | by

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When the United States Postal Service finally expires, what will you remember? When the last ornate post office is sold off for “mixed-used development” and all postage is reduced to digital printouts, what will you tell future generations about the way it was? If all philately disappeared into private collections, what would you want your grandkids to know about the strange pockets of paper we called letters and the tiny stick-on paintings we used to send them?

Bill Gross—one of America’s wealthiest bond traders and the only stamp collector with a net worth of two billion dollars—hopes you’ll make a visit to the new William H. Gross Stamp Gallery in Washington, D.C., which he funded with a portion of his fortune. The grand opening of the gallery, on September 22, was intended as a celebration of the depth and splendor of philatelic culture at a time when the postal service is facing certain extinction. It was probably the biggest party anyone has ever thrown for the American postage stamp. It was also, undoubtedly, its first memorial. Read More »

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A Life in Matches

September 19, 2013 | by

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A Life in Matches: Marineland Restaurant, Marineland, California. Photograph by Ben Stott.

How does one document his or her life? Do you track the minute details of each and every day in a diary, like Ned Rorem, or measure it out with coffee spoons, as J. Alfred Prufrock declared? When digging through the last boxes and cases from his grandfather’s home, Justin Bairamian found an old suitcase, full to the brim with thousands of matchbooks. They were from the Savoy in London to the Marineland Restaurant in California, and many had his grandfather’s own scribbles noting the location and year on the inside cover. Bairamian had discovered a beautiful record of a life well lived.

Bairamian has allowed designer Ben Stott to catalogue a sample of the collection, one day at a time, on the blog A Life in Matches. It is a brilliant tribute to one man’s life, as well as insight into the evolution of graphic design.

 

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Damned Spot

August 27, 2013 | by

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We urge you to check out this gallery of alternative Shakespeare covers

 

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Too Good to Succeed

July 23, 2013 | by

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Very often you have to be a lone nut to come up with a really original idea.… People are very insular … even [in] a great city like New York … people are like fish swimming around in aquariums and all they know is the water in the aquarium.
—Francis Ford Coppola

In the summer of 1938, when the first issue of Action Comics introduced the world to Superman, its cover featured the Man of Steel lifting a steel-framed Chrysler Airflow, “the first sincere and authentic streamlined car,”1 above his head. It was the 1937 model, down to its rounded, beetle-brow hood and tapered rear, its grooved speed lines and triangular back “opera” window, its whitewall tires and condensed, newly horizontal grille. The following year, when Universal Pictures decided to make a film version of the popular radio serial The Green Hornet, the screenplay called for the hero to drive a car with “ultramodern lines,” something that looked fast. (“That thing travels faster than the bullets I send after it,” notes a patrol officer during a chase scene.) But by then, the Airflow—a vehicle vastly superior in speed, safety, and comfort to anything on America’s roads—had been so maligned in the public’s imagination, thanks in part to a competitor’s expensive smear campaign, that, decades later, it would still be spoken of as the greatest failure in automotive history. Instead, Universal chose a 1937 Ford Lincoln Zephyr. The name was meant to evoke the Burlington Zephyr, a 1934 streamlined train (featured in the 1935 film The Silver Streak). When The Green Hornet returned as a TV series in 1966, the Black Beauty returned as a Chrysler Imperial, modified to fire rockets as the 200-mph Black Beauty, the Green Hornet’s signature transport, its speedster “look” augmented with stylized lightning bolts painted on the fender skirts and a “Flight of the Bumblebee” soundtrack.

Chrysler’s 1929 coupe had been inspired, claimed company ad men, by “the canons of ancient classic art … authentic forms of beauty which have come down the centuries unsurpassed and unchallenged,” its radiator with cowl molding suggested the repetition motif in a Parthenon frieze, its front elevation replicated the Egyptian lotus leaf pattern. “This patient pursuit of beauty will doubtless prove a revelation to those who have probably accepted Chrysler symmetry and charm as fortunate but more or less accidental.” The following year, the new models were said to be “as distinctive and charming” as the Parisian couture of Paquin and Worth. But the focus soon shifted from ancient history and European aesthetics to what was taking shape in the New World’s own backyard. Walter P. Chrysler was a self-made man who understood the importance of tenacity and vision. In 1905, he had borrowed a considerable amount of money to buy a car that caught his eye for the sole purpose of dismantling it to see how it worked. A few years later, he was General Motors’s first vice president, and not long after that, he quit to start a rival company that was now riding high. In 1933, despite a debilitating economy—wages nationwide had dropped sixty percent, more than twelve million Americans were unemployed, and business as a whole was running at a net loss exceeding five billion dollars—Chrysler turned a considerable profit, the only company to produce more cars that year than it had in its Parthenon-Egyptian Lotus phase, just prior to the crash. Read More »

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What We’re Loving: Works That Work

April 19, 2013 | by

nightattheoperaYesterday I was handed the first issue of a Dutch magazine that bills itself as “a kind of National Geographic of design.” Oddly, the design of Works That Work (in print) leaves much to be desired: it’s the size and shape of a puffy playbill. But there is an online edition, and the features range from an interview with the translator Linda Asher to an article on battlefield cooking to an investigation of that crowd-management fad, the fly in the urinal. (Yes, it’s published in English.) —Lorin Stein

Every now and then, I go back to my copy of Musicality, a collaboration between Barbara Guest and June Felter, and this week was one of those times (maybe it’s the advent—finally!—of spring that drew me to the book). Published in 1988 by Kelsey St. Press, it combines a single poem by Guest interspersed among pages of Felter’s pencil drawings of rural landscapes—scribbled trees, grasses, and hillocks; knotted loops for clouds; and the simplest geometry to describe farmhouses. Guest’s lines likewise employ the smallest marks, the slightest movements to render nature’s, well, musicality: “Hanging apples half notes / in the rhythmic     ceiling    red flagged / rag clefs / notational margins / the unfinished / cloudburst / a barrel cloud fallen from the cyclone truck / they hid under a table the cloud / with menacing disc / Leafs ripple in the dry cyclonic.” It doesn’t hurt that the book’s cover stock has a very pleasing, toothy texture (Fabriano Artistico, for you paper fiends out there), so it’s doubly nice to pick up. —Nicole Rudick Read More »

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Books for Readers, Nonreaders

September 21, 2012 | by

  • A retired bibliophile in Manila has turned his home into a public library. He also runs a “book bike” to book-deprived areas. “As a book caretaker, you become a full man,” he says.
  • Remembering the late, legendary Knopf editor Ashbel Green.
  • Authors: consider working naked.
  • Books for nonreaders. (Not illiterates; those who don't enjoy books.)
  • From MoMA, the A to Z of alphabet books.
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