Book List of the Week

Warren Lehrer’s Book List: A Life in Visual Literature

By Steve Kroeter November 4, 2013
Warren Lehrer, Graphic Designer, Writer: EarSay, Inc. (New York)
View Warren Lehrer’s Book List

For his (long—22 books) list for Designers & Books, writer, graphic designer, and multimedia artist Warren Lehrer, known as a pioneer in the field of visual literature, or “vis lit,” decided to focus on “books (mostly fiction, some non-fiction, a few hybrids) whose visual composition is an integral part of the writing.” “The authors of these books,” he says in the introduction to his list, “employ a wide range of visual, typographic, and structural strategies. They seek to discover the shape of thought, give form to metaphors, reflect different kinds of relationships, syntax, rhythms of speech, qualities of character, and ways of reading. Most of these titles also incorporate images as a part of the storytelling. In some, the text becomes image, and images are part of the text. One book on this list uses only images to tell the story. Many of these authors take advantage of the physical properties of the book as a medium. Some put it all together themselves; others collaborate with designers and artists.” 

Warren Lehrer, A Life in Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley, 2013 (ORO Editions/Goff Books)  

It’s hard not to agree with Lehrer’s assessment of his book choices—that “choosing favorites is nearly impossible.” Among many highlights are French graphic designer Robert Massin’s interpretation of Eugène Ionesco’s 1964 drama The Bald Soprano, in which, Lehrer says of the layout, “Sentences bend around the corner of a napkin, words wobble and warp between the lips of a man and woman who come to realize that they are married to each other, and hell breaks loose in a layered argument that careens across the page at different angles—all done decades before Adobe software and Apple computers became tools of the trade.” There are several  graphic novels that play with the conventions of the genre, including Marjane Satrapi’s Embroideries, which allows the reader to “eavesdrop on a multi-generational ‘real-time’ conversation,” and Joe Sacco’s Palestine, which centers on conflict zones around the world. There is also a reconsideration of Sheherezade as a flipbook by Janet Zweig and Holly Anderson, and Woman’s World, a novel by Graham Rawle that was “assembled (written/composed, pick your verb here) from 40,000 fragments of text snipped from 1960s British women’s magazines.”

A prolific author of works of visual literature, Warren Lehrer has recently written and designed his 10th book, the just released “illuminated novel” A Life in Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley (ORO Editions/Goff Books). The book is a fictional autobiography of an author who, now in prison, looks back over his career and the 101 books he has written. Excerpts from the books, complete with covers and publicity copy, are interspersed with the author’s (Mobley’s) confesssional memoir as he speaks it on a microcassette.

Lehrer talks about the book in a WNYC interview with Brian Lehrer (his brother):

A Life in Books is available at the Designers & Books Online Book Fair at a special discount.

 Interior pages from A Life in Books (Courtesy of ORO Editions)


Interior pages from A Life in Books (Courtesy of ORO Editions)
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