Thursday, February 14, 2008

Reading: Chip Kidd

Valentine's Day.

Is there anything more romantic than going to see a potential new boyfriend? Yes, I suppose, if said boyfriend lives up to your expectations. Chip Kidd (about whom I've rhapsodized in a previous post) visited the Library in support of his new novel, The Learners. But the audience -- young, hip -- most likely know Kidd for his comic and graphic design work. Give the man his due.

Kidd didn't give a traditional reading; instead, he opted for a PowerPoint presentation: humorous, erudite, and filled with both his successes and failures. So while displaying some of his upcoming book covers (Oliver Sacks, Augusten Buroughs), he also ran through slides of jacket designs that didn't make the cut (Fangland, early attempts at Cormac McCarthy's The Road). The latter was accompanied by a wicked Binky Urban impersonation, which only made me want to be her client even more. Not because she's a powerhouse. Because she also represents Kidd himself.

When Kidd reached to "reading" part of the presentation, his grand, theatrical style carried over: he didn't just read dialogue, he embodied the characters, especially the Norma Desmond-like Himillsy Dodd. And while this wasn't as enthralling as his impersonation of, say, Peter Lorre singing "Sugar Walls," Helen Hayes singing "Nasty," or a newborn hamster performing Hamlet, I can imagine him concocting these characters by becoming them first, testing out their voices outloud, and transcribing what comes out of his mouth.

I admit: I was feeling giddy throughout, grinning maniacally, staring at his shoes (brown, with an slash of orange on the side) and admiring his sartorial sense (vintage tweed, shirt collar hanging outside the lapels). He has much more upper-body bulk than I imagined -- his Marion Ettlinger portrait in Author Photo shows a much more trim Kidd (he laughed obligingly when I called it his "beefcake photo"; he compared himself to Stanley Kowalski). Whatever the case, he mentioned how his glasses were custom-made in London, reflecting his love of Bauhaus, and if that wasn't enough to get me swooning, I'm probably dead inside.

Not to mention Kidd is the first author I've met who signs the page edges.

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