From The Gaurdian:

"He said he had four studies in his house so we can imagine him writing a poem in one of his studies before breakfast, then in the next study writing a hundred pages of a novel, then in the afternoon he writes a long and brilliant essay for the New Yorker, and then in the fourth study he blurts out a couple of poems. John Updike must have been possessed of a purer energy than any writer since DH Lawrence.

I've seen it suggested that such prodigies suffer from an enviable condition called 'pressure on the cortex'. It's as if they have within them an underground spring which is always on the point of eruption. He has produced an enormous body of work. He is certainly one of the great American novelists of the 20th century.

He alone could hold his head up with the great Jews - Bellow, Roth, Mailer, Singer - it was entirely typical of him that, as a sideline, he became a great Jewish novelist too, in the person of Henry Beck, the hero of several of his books. That seems to me to be an essential Updike trait, never being satisfied with any limitations always demanding far more than his fair share.

There aren't supposed to be extremes of uniqueness - either you are or you're not - but he was exceptionally sui generis. He himself was too much under the spell of Joyce, and in a novel like Couples you can see that he set himself the task of bringing Joyce to America. I don't think he could see this - the great stylists are the ones you shouldn't be influenced by, but it was a noble attempt and with a treasury as deep as Updike's he could afford to have a few near misses.

Joyce himself said that certain things were too embarrassing to be written down in black and white. Updike was congenitally unembarrassable and we are the beneficiaries of that. He took the novel onto another plane of intimacy: he took us beyond the bedroom and into the bathroom. It's as if nothing human seemed closed to his eye. I think he was probably of the pattern of his generation. As he said, 'My wife and I had children when we were children ourselves.' The wild oats period came in early middle age.

For me, his greatest novels were the last two Rabbit books - Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest. With that fourth novel in the tetralogy, he had the homerun with all the bases loaded. His style was one of compulsive and unstoppable vividness and musicality. Several times a day you turn to him, as you will now to his ghost, and say to yourself 'How would Updike have done it?" This is a very cold day for literature."

This just entered my inbox:

"It is with great sadness that I report that John Updike died this morning at the age of 76, after a battle with lung cancer.

John was one of our greatest writers. He was a part of the Knopf family for over fifty years. We will all miss him terribly."

March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009


YOU CALL YOUR BLOG "JACKET MECHANICAL" AND YET.... Where are the posts on book design, you ask?

Well I'm fairly late to this particular party, but, in case there is anyone who doesn't already know: Here's Ben Pieratt and Eric Jacobsen's BOOK COVER ARCHIVE. Pretty swell, innit?

Sometimes, I just have to say it out loud just so that it seems real. Say it with me: "President. Barack. Obama."

Japanese "President Mofo" toy courtesy of Ben Shykind.


Little Stevie Amsterdam's
book came in yesterday

(I call him "Little Stevie" in case his head gets too swole-up over his being an important author and all...). It looks great; production over there did a fine job. Later to be released in hardcover by Pantheon in the U.S.





A couple of Chinese John Updikes:
cloth bound, belly-bound, foil stamped...

And apropos of John Updike...I had a big response to the "Return of Albertus" discussion. First off: I was not referring to Albertus (Magnus) the Saint, theologian and alchemist. I was referring to the glyphic typeface made by Berthold Wolpe in 1937.

The ever-astute Stephanie Kloss reminded me that Peter Saville used same on New Order albums (see below) so it's a bit of a revival of a revival! She further wonders if Updike is a New Order fan. As Wittgenstein famously said: "Whereof one cannot speak,thereof one must be silent."



and my daughter Violet's version of same
(I love that the eponymous girl is happy)


Dmitri Shostakovich watching his beloved soccer team Zenit Leningrad. This picture shows us the arranger of "Tea for Two," rather than the author of the Fifteenth Quartet: "Play the first movement so that flies drop dead in mid-air and the audience leaves the hall out of sheer boredom."



My dear Dad passed away nineteen years ago this January. He left me many important gifts- both of the metaphysical and actual variety... Most valuable to me personally, of all of these, is Dad's own artwork- the collages, sculptures, paintings he made. My father died long, long before I started on the path of the visual arts- and I often wonder what he would make of my becoming a designer. I also wonder what he would make of the profession itself (I don't think, in general, he was much of a fan of applied, or commercial work. I imagine he would have thought it lacked moral seriousness- and he would have been right I suppose). Nevertheless, from time to time I'll stumble upon something of Dad's that runs strangely parallel to something I have been working on, or thinking about. My fascination with Le Corbusier began only recently- but I have long known that my father was a massive fan. (If he only knew what most of us only recently discovered thanks to Nicholas Fox Weber; that Corbu was a Vichy collaborator; Dad's fan-dom would definitely have been attenuated, if not downright killed). In any case, among the artifacts that were scattered about my childhood home were things concerned with the Le Corbusier ouevre- books, schema, posters, and, it turns out, in one particular instance... a bona fide Le Corbusier's itself. Here it is (above)- it now hangs on my livingroom wall. I imagine this particular item might have an actual pecuniary value- not that I'm selling. Something of greater interest to me is this sketch my father made on his honeymoon. He was very young- a kid really- his first time in Europe. And he found these pillars- "pilotis" from the Unité D'habitation in Marseille of enough interest to render them in his sketchbook. The pillars are Corbu's. But the sketch is 100 percent Dad. (apologies for me and my iphone)