Chip Kidd | Master Book Designer at TED 2012

If you aren't aware of Chip Kidd's contribution to the art, science and intellect of design that illuminates bookstore shelved and influences bookstore window displays, not to mention airport bookstores and newsstand displays, it's time you got acquainted with this leading book designer. If you know of his work, take a few minutes to appreciate this rare appearance by a designer who has asserted his forceful intelligence on every writer and reader in America. Many of us may not have been published by Knopf yet, but the lure of allying with the house that published Carl HiaasenJack LondonThomas MannGabriel García MárquezCormac McCarthyH. L. MenckenToni MorrisonAlice Munro,Haruki MurakamiP. D. OuspenskyEzra PoundAnne RiceAnne TylerJohn Updike, and Edmund White is powerful incentive to keep writing, to persist in crafting stories that entertain, engage, and develop lasting relationships with our readers.

Chip Kidd doesn’t judge books by their cover, he creates covers that embody the book -- and he does it with a wicked sense of humor. In one of the funniest talks from TED2012, he shows the art and deep thought of his cover designs.

[From The Design Studio session at TED2012, guest-curated by Chee Pearlman and David Rockwell.]

Here is Chip Kidd's amusing take on designing book jackets in his 2012 TED Talk. Enjoy.

Thanks to Laura Trombley, president of Pitzer College and biographer of the compelling Mark Twain's Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years, who shared this link.

Anil's Ghost | Michael Ondaatje

Nothing Civil About This War

This novel was published after the phenomenon that was THE ENGLISH PATIENT. It is more grounded in human tragedy than PATIENT, and hews more closely to the female protagonist's (Anil's) story than PATIENT's Hana.

Ondaatje's achievement here is capturing horrible truths in asides. It is in the actions of supporting characters that he makes his case for the best and worst aspects of the human experience.

In THE ENGLISH PATIENT, Kip the sapper lives and works at the edges of the novel's principal plot. Yet it is in his seemingly incongruent actions that he is so effective a presence. For example, he hoists Hana on a line into the high shadows of the Church of San Francesco in Arezzo so that she can glimpse the centuries-old frescoes. In doing so, he lifts her above the nightmare of Nazi occupation in WW-II Italy and transports her across time to the heights of mankind's artistic triumph.

In ANIL'S GHOST, we are dropped into the terror of Sri Lanka's civil war. There she is caught between three intractable forces: leftist and separatist insurrections and the government's ruthless repression. Here she collaborates with two brothers - one an archealogist and the other a doctor. In their world, abduction is to be expected, torture is a fact of life, and the aspirations of their professions - discovery, knowledge, compassion - are dark and threatening ideas. They are ultimately loyal to these values, these abstractions of light, shadow, and hope.

It is especially relevant reading now, when what appears to be nascient civil war threatens the Middle East from Tripoli to Tehran.

GHOST is deeply researched and written. It is a good addition to the literature of our time.

Anil's Ghost: A Novel

Related: Michael Ondaatje: Auteur, Author

LAST ORDERS | Graham Swift

Graham Swift's sixth novel, LAST ORDERS (1996), follows a day in the lives of the friends, spouse and children of Jack Arthur Dodds, butcher, recently deceased. Their day of remembrance is a metaphor for the ordinary, earnest yet flawed, occasionally misspent life.

Following Jack's three men friends and his son as they carry his ashes to the sea at Margate to fulfill one final wish is as driven, surreal and overarchingly important as a salmon's return up a twisted and turbulent river to its life starting point.  The why of it is never quite clear to subjects, just like real life.  Perhaps Jack's friends, son and wife discover that nothing in life should go to waste, including one last opportunity to unite with friends and family in the only place that ever held any hope of romantic significance for him. Margate was his Shangri-La, his hope for his and Amy's connection to each other, even at the end of an estranged lifetime.

Uncompromising in his use of ordinary thoughts and language by the ordinary people of Bermondsey, south London, Swift establishes his contract with the reader early and never lets him or her down.

It aint like your regular sort of day.

...begins Swift and continues with absolute, unblinking objectivity, and an unerring ear for the deceptive riches in thought and dialogue.  At first, the similarity of voice between the characters - Jack Arthur Dodds' understated, reticent butcher; Vince Dodds, his cagey son; Amy, his wife who chose their mentally disabled daughter, June, over her husband; Ray Johnson, his unreliable mate; Lenny Tate, his resentful Army buddy; Vic Tucker, his funeral director; and Mandy, the stray taken in by Vince - made following the changes in voice difficult to follow. I kept referring back to the chapter titles to see who was carrying the story forward.  Soon, however, each character's emotional process and relationship with the deceased rippled outward and overlapped other characters' process and responses.  Before long, cross currents became waypoints and I grew compelled by the journey and the back stories.  Swift's exploration of ordinary lives in this novel is extraordinarily skilled.

This quiet novel speaks volumes about the quiet lives of its ordinary middle-class south London characters. In doing so, it speaks to the rest of us.

Graham Swift's interview in SALON

The Booker Prize, which is often a reliable guide to literary excellence, is what originally attracted me to LAST ORDERS.

Last Orders