Dogs Don’t Talk in Times New Roman, and Other News


On the Shelf

A screen grab from Microsoft Bob.


  • Prediction: Comic Sans MS is due for a comeback. Ostracized and maligned for decades, the world’s most controversial typeface is about to come in from the cold. Books will be printed in Comic Sans. Official memoranda will be typed in it. Highway signs will use it; fashion labels will use it; we will put it on the moon. Vincent Connare, a typographer for Microsoft in the nineties who designed Comic Sans, has begun to campaign for its rehabilitation. He maintains that the font is a perfect marriage of form and content, especially given Microsoft’s ambitions at the time: “One program was called Microsoft Bob, which was designed to make computers more accessible to children. I booted it up and out walked this cartoon dog, talking with a speech bubble in Times New Roman. Dogs don’t talk in Times New Roman! Conceptually, it made no sense … Type should do exactly what it’s intended to do. That’s why I’m proud of Comic Sans. It was for novice computer users and it succeeded with that market. People use it inappropriately: if they don’t understand how type works, it won’t have any power or meaning to them. I once heard a guy at a Rothko show say: ‘I could have done that.’ He clearly doesn’t know anything about art. He’ll probably use Comic Sans without realizing it’s wrong in certain circumstances.”
  • Oh, I forgot about baseball! Baseball uniforms will use Comic Sans. Bet your life on it. The MLB’s new commissioner, Rob Manfred, is pitching all sorts of wild ideas for the game. Why not a typeface change? After all, Jay Caspian Kang, looking into baseball’s past, reminds us that the game has seen plenty of upgrades since the nineteenth century, when warring New York and Massachusetts factions vied for primacy: “The Massachusetts game featured one-out innings and overhand pitching, and batters could be called out by being hit by a thrown ball while between bases. Typically, the first team to score 100 runs won. The New York game was a bit more genteel and pragmatic: Games were played to 21, not 100; pitchers had to throw underhand; no players had balls intentionally thrown at them; and games concluded before dark. The debates over which version was better centered on manliness, decorum and the pace of play. The Massachusetts crowd argued that it was manlier for outs to require some measure of physical pain, while the New Yorkers said that manliness could never be extricated from gentlemanly manners and that only savages ran around fields pegging balls at one another.”

  • Evgenia Peretz profiles Nan Talese, one of the most prodigious editors in New York—and, next to her husband, an astonishingly self-effacing professional: “In an initial e-mail, she pooh-poohed the idea that she’d done anything noteworthy. ‘Doesn’t breaking the glass ceiling mean becoming president or CEO? I simply have my own imprint and I have been lucky to have authors follow me when I went to another publishing company. Best wishes, Nan’ … With no political point to make, no precedent or road map for a woman, Nan simply assumed the duties of editor. She brought in groovy poet Rod McKuen, who’d been selling books out of his car in California; he ended up accounting for 24 percent of Random House’s revenue for a few years. She found A. Alvarez’s daring The Savage God, an unlikely best-seller about suicide and art. The concept of maternity leave didn’t exist then. So in 1963, when she got pregnant for the first time, she didn’t tell anyone until it became obvious—not because she feared for her job, but because it was none of anyone’s business. She’d been working on copyright certificates up until labor and continued to do so from her hospital bed. Following Pamela’s birth, Nan immediately returned to work.”