TypeTogether: Building Ligatures

A decade and a half ago, Veronika Burian and José Scaglione founded TypeTogether to connect type lovers from all over the world. In their new book, Building Ligatures, the TypeTogether founders and contributors share their knowledge, experience, best practices, and friendships.

The love, respect, and accolades speak volume not only to their creative talent, but also to their kinship in the type community. The key success behind TypeTogether is built on friendship rather than rivalry. Since its founding day, TypeTogether has collaborated with type designers, graphic designers, and language experts worldwide. It is my pleasure to have contributed a small part in Vietnamese diacritics. In my experience working with Veronika and José, I had tremendous respect for the level of care and detail they invested into designing diacritic marks for native readers. (Thanks for including my name on the book jacket.)

In addition to the inspiring behind-the-scenes stories of the foundry, the book included informative how-to essays from “How to Choose the Right Typeface” to “Typographic Matchmaking” to “Web and Digital Typesetting Myths” to “The Path to Brand Design.” It is an essential and enjoyable read for anyone who touches types. I wish TypeTogether tremendous success in 15 and 30 more years to come.

Vũ Văn Song Toàn: Đoản khúc chiều phù dung

“Những lúc hận đàn ông, mẹ hay đánh tôi những trận đòn thừa sống thiếu chết.” Vũ Văn Song Toàn viết trong truyện ngắn “Thôi mùa hoa cải.” Thú thật tôi chỉ nhớ câu đó thôi chứ câu chuyện ra sao tôi chẳng nhớ dù đã đọc qua. Dường như tôi chỉ nhớ cốt truyện trong “Nước mắt của mụ Dạ Dần”. Còn những bài viết khác, nhất là về đời sống trong xã hội, tôi đọc rồi trả hết lại cho tác giả. Có thể tôi thiếu tập trung hoặc những bài văn không đủ ấn tượng với tôi. Chắc sẽ đọc lại trong tương lai.

Jimmy Soni: The Founders

The Founders is engaging and Jimmy Soni is an excellent storyteller. I was also curious about the story of PayPal since I have been using its service forever. Nevertheless, I could only get through half of the book. I am just tired of reading about fucking Elon Musk. This guy is taking up way too much space already.

Ocean Vương: Time is a Mother

Ocean Vương’s poetic intricacy is beyond my comprehension for literary. What the fuck is “black as god’s periods?” Did he mean what I thought he meant? I wish someone could sit down with me and break down his poems line by line. One of his lines reads, “Because everyone knows yellow pain, pressed into American letters, turns to gold.” Yes, everyone knows, but me. I like the analogy though. I do understand a few lines: “Nobody’s free without breaking open.” And these:

I’m on the cliff of myself & these aren’t wings, they’re futures.

For as long as I can remember my body was the mayor’s nightmare.

The second line strikes the political chord. Of course, I knew these lines:

In my language, the one I recall now only by closing my eyes, the word for love is Yêu.

And the word for weakness is Yếu.

I like that Vương incorporates Vietnamese into his poetry. Without diacritics those two lines wouldn’t have worked. He even has a Vietnamese title for his book. He translates Time is a Mother as Thời gian là một người mẹ. If I get a chance to meet him, I wanted to know how he would translate: Time is a motherfucker.

I need to re-read these poems again in order to understand everything he has written; therefore, I bought myself a copy. Gotta support our Vietnamese-American talents.

Deborah Levy: Real Estate

I thought this book would be a short and sweet read, but I struggled through it. I plowed through and understood only thirty percent of it. It’s definitely my own shortcomings as a reader.

I must admit. As I was reading this book, my mind was drifting off elsewhere; therefore, I got lost half way through, but I kept reading because I didn’t want to give up. After finishing it the first time, I didn’t get much out of it. I decided to start over from the beginning and to read slowly.

Deborah Levy’s Real Estate turned out to be lyrical and beautiful and I enjoyed it the second time around. Levy writes about her single life at sixty. She and her husband had divorced and her daughters had moved out of her house. In addition to places she was dreaming of, she was searching for characters, the female characters in particular. I love the following passage about estate and language:

None of this real estate belonged to me, but I felt I belonged to it.

I wrote every day in its long, timbered attic and finally acknowledged I did not have a tranquil relationship with language because I am in love with it. I asked myself, what sort of love? Language is a building site. It is always in the process of being constructed and repaired. It can fall apart and be made again.

I definitely recommend reading it slowly for pleasure. It is indeed short and sweet.

Joan Didion: Let Me Tell You What I Mean

A collection of essays from 1968 to 2000, Joan Didion has written eloquently on various subjects including Nancy Reagan, Ernest Hemingway, and Martha Stewart. My personal favorites are her own reflection on “Telling Stories” and “Why I Write.” She writes:

By which I mean not a “good” writer or a “bad” writer but simply a writer, a person whose most absorbed and passionate hours are spent arranging words on pieces of paper. Had my credentials been in order I would never have become a writer. Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.

A short, sweet, and pleasurable read.

Courtney Zoffness: Spilt Milk

Thoughtful and tender, this collection of personal essays delves into today’s culture including maternity, sexuality, masculinity, spirituality, and vulnerability. Zoffness’s prose is honest and hilarious. Here’s her reason for writing:

I wrote—I write—because I prize language’s surprises and limitations, and because in college I connected to books more than I did to friends. Literature offered throughways to comprehension, to compassion, to a quieter mind. Writing offered the same, though its lens flipped around, allowed me to introspect, test assumptions, unscramble experiences and observations. It was an attempt to participate in the conversation rather than just nod along to it.

I love it and highly recommend this collection of memoirs.

Sarah Jaffe: Work Won’t Love You Back

After reading the introduction, I had a different expectation for the book. I thought Jaffe would delve into how we can find some glimpse of happiness from our job since we spent the majority of our waking hours working. In contrast, Jaffe writes about inequalities, politics, and exploitations that come with work. We still have to work to make a living; therefore, we might as well demand better working conditions. Not what I expected from this book, but an informative and essential read nevertheless.

Đặng Quang Chính: Giòng sông quê hương

Dù bộc lộ tình cảm, tình yêu, hay tình quê hương, lời thơ của ông Đặng Quang Chính giản dị, dễ hiểu, và dễ gần. Chẳng hạn như bốn câu “Mơ về nắng đẹp”:

Vần thơ trao đổi nắng mưa
Vần thơ làm bạn dỗ dành trái tim
Đọc xong con mắt lim dim
Mơ ngày nắng đẹp lần tìm gặp em.

Một giấc mơ nhẹ nhàng của một người xa quê hương. Ý thơ của ông dễ đọc nhưng phần typography quá tệ. Phông chữ dấu Việt bị nhiều lỗi. Tác giả chỉ chú trọng vào lời thơ chứ không để ý đến cách trình bày và nghệ thuật chữ Việt cho những tác phẩm của mình. Hơi đáng tiếc.

Jung Yun: O Beautiful

In this painstakingly beautiful novel, Elinor, half-white-half-Asian model-turned-writer, returns to her hometown, North Dakota, to cover the oil boom for a magazine article her professor who she had an affair with passed on to her. She set out to interview the workers in the small town and unearthed deep layers of classism, racism, and sexism. Yun’s writing is engaging, compelling, and devastating. She taps into the unmistakable American story—a heartbreaking, breathtaking read.