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Charlie Orr
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Introduction I love all kinds of books, but I tend to gravitate towards those that have a speculative bent. This is the reason I like novels so much, the form is entirely speculative, in the sense that all novelists are creating their characters and worlds from whole cloth. But within... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
Introduction There is a scene in the film Caddyshack in which a young girl casually tosses a Baby Ruth candy bar into a swimming pool full of frolicking caddys. The theme from Jaws begins, and the camera tracks the unfortunately shaped candy bar as it floats ominously through the pool.... Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
Update: As it turns out the photo I selected for the cover art of The Polaris Redaction was a little more perfect than I thought. I chose this picture, because it worked well for the composition I had in mind, but as it turns out the building of the launch... Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
Introduction One of the more popular postings on The Hypothetical Library was Jennifer L. Knox's "adaptation" of Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything. She took his monumental cookbook, scratched out his name, replaced it with her own, and then added a new introduction. Here is the adjusted cover, and you... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
This past week was big one for The Hypothetical Library. The Neil Gaiman posts received a great deal of attention from readers as well as other blogs. It was also the week of Book Expo America here in New York. During BEA, I had a chance to meet a lot... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
Announcement I am happy to announce that 1 very real, non-hypothetical copy of If You Read This Book The World Will End is being donated to The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and will be auctioned to raise funds for this very crucial organization. It will be 1 of the... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
Introduction A little over a year ago I was thinking about the Kindle and e-books, and what these developments meant for books, and publishing. Book lovers hated the device, people leaning towards the gadget side of things thought it was neat. It would either kill publishing or save it—who knew... Continue reading
Posted May 23, 2010 at The Digital Book Cover
Introduction One of the keys to understanding the loyalty of Neil Gaiman’s readers is his willingness to engage them on a personal level. With his daily Twitter comments and frequent blog postings, Gaiman’s fans are privy to his weekly activities on a level that most writers wouldn’t dare encourage. But... Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
Introduction Author Neil Gaiman isn't just liked by his readers—he's adored by them. With a Twitter audience of more than 1,480,000, he has a daily following that hangs on his every word. But his writing strikes a chord that extends beyond fannish obsession. Its appeal has everything to do with... Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
On Wednesday's post I said that the name Shanna Compton would be coming up a lot in my posts. I went back and counted, and there have been a total of 16 mentions including the one above. The reason for all of these Shanna mentions (17) is because without her I would have never met so many poets and writers, and I wouldn't have any covers to present here. Which brings us to todays topic, David Lehman. The first time I heard David's name was when Shanna (18) told me that she would be studying with him at the New School. She said that I would really like his work "he wrote a book about detective novels". That sold me right away. I actually first read his book The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets. It remains my favorite book of historical criticism, and I had barely known much about the subjects at the time (except for a little bit about Ashbery and O'Hara). I eventually met David— one thing led to another, and I ended up designing three issues of LIT, the New School's literary journal. Here's the art for one of the covers I did. LIT #8 The sculpture was made by Brooklyn based artist Richard Human. Those little black dots you see suspended in the book shaped clear plastic, are actually hundreds of black plastic letters (12 pt helvetica, if memory serves). It is an amazing thing to look at. I wanted to work with David, and eventually a project for soft skull press came up. Jim and Dave Defeat the Masked Man is a sestina laden collaborative effort between David, and James Cummins with illustrations by artist Archie Rand. Jim and Dave Defeat the Masked Man [] I really like this homage that Archie did to E.C. cartoonist Johnny Craig . At the release party when I mentioned this, he was amazed that I recognized the reference. I should have hand drawn the type of the title, and I think that was my intention, but I ran out of time. I wanted to mention the project David and I did for The Hypothetical Library. When I sent out my first request for contribution emails, David very graciously replied right away with an affirmative. The project we made was What Really Happened. He conceived it as a series, so I did three different covers. Here is my favorite. What Really Happened: Dallas—November 22, 1963 [] I had the thought that this series is about the observers of history, rather than the main figures. In all three covers the main subjects are cropped, nearly out of the picture, and the anonymous observers are featured. One of my favorite part of David's title is that "What Really Happened" is not a question, but a statement. I'd like to thank Stacey Harwood for this wonderful opportunity, it was a nice walk down memory lane for me, and a lot of fun. I apologize for any... Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
This is a story I still find astonishing but it is completely true. Sometime in the late 1960's, poet and life long comics fan, Kenneth Koch reached out to then star and now legend of the comic book world, Stan Lee. He had an idea for a Vietnam protest comic book that he and Lee would collaborate on. In the end it fell through—Lee said his (unnamed) cartoonist thought the proposal was too "far out". As Head Librarian of the Hypothetical Library and comics fan, this notion makes my head reel. Just imagine a story penned by Koch, and drawn by Jack Kirby, or Steve Ditko, and published by the 1960's, Marvel. *sigh* Moving forward a few years to 2003, Shanna Compton poetry editor at soft skull press had learned of a posthumous manuscript consisting of comic book pages Koch had sketched over the years, but had never found a publisher for. It was called The Art of The Possible: Comics Mainly Without Pictures. Shanna and publisher Richard Nash had acquired the sketch book via David Lehman, and the Koch estate, and the book would now see the light of day. If only they could find a designer that liked poetry, and was a comic book geek.Hmmmm. I started right away, scanning the pages, sketching ideas, trying to match the style of the crude, but charming thumbnail drawings—it was great fun. Here's a couple of the pages of the many that I was lucky enough to hold in my hands... One Idea I had for the project was to assign pages to contemporary cartoonists to interpret, and then publish the results. In the end, smarter folks than I prevailed, and the pages were reproduced as Koch had sketched them. If I got this project today I probably would have advised that it be reproduced as a total facsimile—cover and all. I would have had a photographer shoot the pages to show the white out, pasted scraps of paper (that made the sketchbook bulge a bit), and other bits of untidiness that made it so charming. Still, there is something to be said for letting the intent of the work speak more loudly than the context, so I remain happy with the final book for the most part. The cover for The Art of The Possible: Comics Mainly Without Pictures [] Finally I'd like to leave you with Mr. Koch's wonderful title page/credo. You may want to print it out and put it somewhere you can see it with regularity. Tomorrow—David Lehman, and James Cummins (sorry I didn't get to you guys today, but this post took on a life of it's own.) Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Today I'm featuring cartoonist Matt Madden. Influenced by the European literary group Oulipo and it's comics equivalent Oubapo (of which Matt is a member), his comics often use the oulipian approach of imposed constraints. Matt's experiments led this to a very poetry relevant piece he did a few years ago The Six Treasures of the Spiral: A Comics Sestina. Which, as it says in the title is a sestina done in comics form—the worlds first! I won't go into the structural details of a sestina, because frankly I never could keep them straight. But as a readers of the BAP blog, I imagine you all will know those rules. You can see it here. It first appeared in issue 2 of his comic book series of A Fine Mess whose covers were something of a design collaboration between me and Matt. A Fine Mess #1 With this cover we wanted to do a story that ran in a continuous loop. As you flip the cover around from front to back the story is a constant repeat. This is completely fictitious and does not in any way refer to an event from Matt's college years in Austin Tx, in the early 1990's. A Fine Mess #2 This cover design refers to the above linked sestina, and carried on the theme of continuousness. This time referring to the spiral of the comic book sestina's structure, the story's title, and the whirlpool that occurs in the actual story. 99 Ways to tell a story: Exercises in Style U.S. edition [] As wonderful as his work in AFM is, Matt's Magnum Opus is 99 Ways to tell a story: Exercises in Style. Based on the structure of Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style--one mundane story retold 99 different ways, Matt illuminates the ranges of styles and genres that comics have to offer. It is a revelation for those that love the comics form, and those who are just curious. 99 Ways to tell a story: Exercises in Style U.K. edition Matt's book has been published in 8 countries, and been translated into 7 languages. I got a rare opportunity to redesign my own cover for the U.K. Edition, which is a lot closer to what Matt and I had in mind for the U.S. edition. Oubapo Bonus: A page from Triple Dare#2 (WARNING: EMBARRASSING, BUT HUMOROUS MALE CARTOON FRONTAL NUDITY CONTAINED) Triple Dare was a short lived series of comics experimentation in which 3 cartoonists would create a story based on retraints imposed by another cartoonist. In this issue the participants were Tom Hart, James Kocholka, and Nick Bertozzi. Matt had the back cover bonus entry. I include this because as designer of this issue I asked, in the spirit of Oubapo, that each artist randomly be selected to do a portrait of another. Everyone liked the idea except for Nick who said "Oh no, they're going to make me look like Frankenstein!" He was right James made him look like Frankenstein. Tom's portrait of... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Today I'm writing about the inimitable Jennifer L.Knox. Jennifer is a poet I've followed for years. Her work is often funny which a rarity in the poetry world. It's a notion that reaffirmed by the blank looks I get every time I tell someone "you should read Jennifer's poetry, it's hilarious". She was featured on my Hypothetical Library blog two weeks ago with an amazingly funny found object approach to book design—take someone else's book scratch out their name and add your own and voila, instant book. You can see the results of How To Cook Everything and its great new introduction here. I had the great pleasure of designing the cover of her last two books, and will be doing the next one as well. A Gringo Like Me: Bloof Books [] When you get cover art this great all you can do is try to give it a nice frame (note the rabbit in the lower right hand corner). The artist is Charles Brownings, and you can see more of his outstanding work here. Drunk By Noon: Bloof Books [] Another Charles Browning painting. It makes me want to shout Yeee Haaawww!! every time I look at it. The book board background was provided by Shanna Compton. Jennifer will be featured again on The Hypothetical Library in a few weeks with cover artist Elizabeth Zeckel for a young adult book Jr Detective Adventure #19: Perplexed by a Porpoise. And although it's way to soon to talk about, a possible audio series, but you didn't hear that from me. Tomorrow—Matt Madden Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Today I'd like to focus on some of the work I've done with poet, and best friend Shanna Compton. Throughout these posts you will see her name pop up again and again because without Shanna I would have never met so many poets and writers, and probably would have never got involved with publishing or book cover design at all. As both a poet, and poetry editor for softskull press Shanna introduced me to a range of writers, and most of the covers you will see this week are directly or indirectly a result of Ms. Compton. Shanna is the publisher of Bloof Books which includes in it's stable such wonderful poets as Danielle Pafunda, and Jennifer L. Knox who will be featured on tomorrows post. Early on Shanna and I produced a couple of chapbooks Opal Memos Nonchalant, and Big Confetti—which she collaborated on with poet Shafer Hall. Here are the covers. Opal Memos Nonchalant This was an early effort of mine, and if memory serves it is probably one of the first covers I ever made. I've tried to make that overlapping type trick work again, and again over the years on different projects, but am still not happy with the results—maybe someday. I still like the logo I designed for "Half empty/Half full" although if I redesigned it today, I'd probably use a sans serif font. Big Confetti Big confetti was a collaborative chapbook with Shanna and Shafer Hall. The choice of type was derived from Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "Pictures of the gone world". I liked the way it looked and no one was using that kind of old-timey slab serif at the time. It also made me think of Texas where Shanna and Shafer both hale from. Bloof Books Here is a logo I did for Shanna's publishing endeavor Bloof Books. I chose a bee as the icon because she is always as busy as a bee, and also as something of a reference to softskull (her former employer) whose logo features an ant with a pen nib as its lower abdomen. The bee's stinger is a pencil tip (subtle, I know). Portrait of Shanna This is a typographic portrait I did of Shanna for her birthday a few years ago. The weird part is that it really does look like her. Tomorrow Jennifer L. Knox Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
No, it isn't, but I thought I'd start with a provocative title for my series of entries. My name is Charlie Orr, and I am a designer, not a poet or even a writer. I have a blog called The Hypothetical Library, which in its short two and a half month life has included two poets—David Lehman, and Jennifer L. Knox (with more on the way). The premise of my blog is that I design real book covers for nonexistent books, as proposed by real authors. (BAP has graciously included me in their blogroll; click to see the results and get more details.) Before I started my blog, I had spent part of the past nine years designing book covers—sometimes paid, but mostly not. Early on I helped out poet and cartoonist friends with getting their work ready for the world. Whether it was for a short print run of chapbooks or more widely distributed trade books for publishing houses, every cover was fun. Through this effort I've met and come to know many wonderful contemporary poets and writers, some of which I will feature throughout the coming week. As a guest blogger for BAP this week, I thought I would show some nonhypothetical covers that I have done for poets, writers, and cartoonists over the years, and offer some commentary. First up Reb Livingston... Wanton Textiles: No Tell Books, chapbook [] Wanton Textiles is probably my favorite cover to date. When the idea hit me I laughed a lot—for days, which is how I know I've stumbled onto something good. At the time I asked Ms. Livingston if I should have the needle slightly turned away from the thread as if to avoid the uncomfortable aftermath of a regrettable tryst. Reb said "No. She's good with it." Pterodactyls Soar Again: Coconut Books, e-chap [] Before I did Wanton Textiles for Reb, I did Pterodactyls Soar Again, with photography by poet and friend Shanna Compton. This was the third or fourth egg I cracked for this shot, and I ended up retouching it anyway. My goal when I started this cover was to not show a dinosaur, or a shadow of a dinosaur. I wanted combination of the image and title to let the viewer fill in the blanks in their mind. Commercial for The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel The commercial Not a cover design, but an audio project that grew out of my collaboration with Reb, the idea for this piece was to emulate the late night chat line phone ads that at the time, seemed to be everywhere on TV after 11:00 pm. I thought it would be a funny to combine the lascivious nature of these ads with the "discreet" aesthetic of the No Tell Motel anthologies. [] Tomorrow—Shanna Compton Continue reading
Posted May 10, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Introduction Welcome to a very special Mother's Day edition of the Hypothetical Library. This week I am featuring Marilyn Orr—my Mom. The book, Hair to Bones: The Evolution of an American Woman is her first (hypothetical) book. (Dad, guess what you’re getting for Father’s Day.) It's safe to say that... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
Introduction If you’ve visited this blog before, you know that the covers displayed here are usually based on hypothetical flap copy provided by the writer. And if you saw last weeks entry, you know that I’m prone to break my own rules. It’s in this spirit that I present this... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
Introduction This week The Hypothetical Library is featuring its first guest designer, the magnificent poet, Jennifer L. Knox. Jennifer is a designer in the sense that she has a black Sharpie marker, glue stick, and a preexisting book to deface. As a wedding present for her friends, she did an... Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
Update 4/20/10 In my 8 plus years of book design I’ve never actually seen a stranger with a book whose cover I designed—until this morning. The book was The Age of Sinatra from softskull press. David Ohle’s sequel to his legendary postmodern novel Motorman. It was gratifying to see my... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
Introduction This is a very special entry of The Hypothetical Library for two reasons. One being that Gabrielle Bell’s 2002 début collection, When I’m Old and Other Stories, was the first book I ever designed. And second, because this entry is a kind of hypothetical, hypothetical book cover. Let me... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
Introduction One of the most unsettling but rewarding reading experiences I’ve ever had was with Brian Evenson’s novel Last Days. In his book, a detective named Mr. Kline is coerced into solving a murder that occurred on the compound of a religious cult that, as the back cover copy says,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
This week the overworked, but loyal staff (me) of the Hypothetical Library are taking some time off. I’m a little worn out from, as musician Mark Eitzel puts it “the pleasures of the treadmill and the factory”. But The Library will be up and running next week with Brian Evenson’s... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
Introduction “The number one rule of thieves is that nothing is too small to steal.”—Jimmy Breslin When I started this introduction I was looking for a good “big city” quote, that would best describe Thomas Kelly’s writing, and found it in the above, from Jimmy Breslin—patron saint of urban wisdom.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
Errata Hypothetica The Hypothetical Library is in need of its first major correction above and beyond the usual poor grammar, run-on sentences and overuse of commas. I neglected to place a hypothetical promotional blurb from the very real Jonathan Lethem on the cover of Apocalypse Animals. Please see the revised... Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library
Introduction As a poet, historical/cultural critic, editor, and educator, David Lehman is something of a literary cottage industry. So when I contacted him for this project I wasn’t sure what he might come up with. I was anticipating poetry, but got history instead. In Lehman’s historical/cultural writings, beginning with his... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2010 at The Hypothetical Library