In his fantastic collection of essays, Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design, Michael Bierut invokes the big name (Nabokov) early on in this collection...and I'm smitten. I've never successfully merged my design life with my writing life - never listed all the design books I read here on this blog that purports to list...all that I read. I've never quite been comfortable merging the two because I worry that you can't be both a good designer and a good writer. I'd really like to be both. I selfishly support the work of Dave Eggers for this reason.
So let us mark this as my first post that attempts, in a real way, to merge the two. If we hate it, we can delete it. Or at parties, when I finally meet you, we can pretend I never posted this and talk only of books and other literary pursuits.
BUT! When opening a design book, I'm rarely faced with a discussion on literary masters. Imagine my surprise then, when I stumbled upon Chapter 29 which bears a rather fetching title - Vladimir Nabokov: Father of Hypertext. Ah - perhaps this design + writer thing is possible after all! It's a very short piece, so I hesitate to quote too much, but Bierut's brief discussion of Nabokov's Pale Fire and how it is the very essence (nay, the beginning) of hypertext and how it so closely mimics a few hours spent clicking from blog to blog to blog as the content from one to the next interests you, is yummy:
"Of course, Nabokov's genius is not simply that, in contrast to the multiple voices of the blog world, he's the author behind all the different parts that make up Pale Fire's universe. It's that the elaborate structure of the book is so perfectly conceived that regardless of what path you follow, you can have an endlessly stimulating literary experience."
After making a brief attempt to categorize Pale Fire as Design and Lolita as Art (I'm not entirely sold), Bierut gets to the heart of the matter:
"My copy of Pale Fire--I have a first edition in no-so-hot condition--has that old book smell. There is nothing interesting about the interior layout. The cover is the same format that Putnam seems to have used for all their Nabokovs: a condensed sans serif with a bit of color behind it. When I recommend it to students, I can tell that at first glance it disappoints: this wordy old thing has something to do with design?
Trust me, it does."