… in the same headline as my absolute favorite novelists, Edith Wharton and Jane Austen, by Jillian Burt of Editions B on the Huffington Post. In Alexandra Lange and Rosanne Cash, Heirs to Edith Wharton and Jane Austen (can’t really believe this headline exists), Burt shows herself to be a close reader of my writing, and makes me feel like I might not be so far from writing the comedy of manners I dream of — in the form of design criticism.
The critic’s willingness to engage with thorny big issues is important, but in reading Lange’s blog, and her tweets, I’ve become struck by how her point is made through the patient accumulation of sharply observed ordinary details. Last week on her blog she casually drew attention to a poster on a bus shelter advertising the movie The Social Network, which had the words “Punk,” “Billionaire” and “Genius” superimposed over the sweet face of the young actor portraying Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg:“I understand I am supposed to be wowed by the contrast between his downy face and the words Punk Billionaire Genius but what non-modelesque young man gets a billboard of his face nowadays who isn’t an upstart genius online billionaire?”
It was the way that she identified the typeface on the poster — “Crypto-Kruger typography, with lightweight Futura in a justified block” — that made me think of Edith Wharton’s writing. I sent her a message through Twitter saying that identifying the typeface seemed like good etiquette. “I am all about the etiquette,” she replied. “I write thank you letters. Credit where credit is due is the bare minimum.”
Oddly enough, I was talking about etiquette just today in my first D-Crit seminar. My students seemed to understand, after spending three hours with me, that I needed to take on a Sorkinian persona to write my takedown of Nicolai Ouroussoff — something I encourage them to do in class. I also pointed out that because I observed good manners in my takedown, I wouldn’t be afraid to attend the same party as Ouroussoff. Unlike Emma, I never offered personal insult.