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Re: urban printer's myth



I live and work on an island in the lagoon formed by the
main island of Cancun, one of the continent's more humid
locations, and I've never had any problems with laser print
permanence. Using petroleum-based solvents and solvent-based
cements will cause the toner to migrate, though.

I worked in letterpress for many years and I will always
respect the process. I became quite depressed when I
realized that metal was becoming a mere curiosity with the
advent of phototypesetters. It's like lots of beloved things
that I have had to let go in my lifetime. I would prefer the
return of the giant thin-skinned beefsteak tomato (which has
disappeared even from Mexico, apparently), however, to the
return of metal type.

Letterpress is hard, dirty, industrial work and requires the
use of various poisonous materials including solvents and
the lead itself. When I first got to Cancun, the only type
was Linotype set on old, old machines, one of which began
spitting hand grenades of molten lead at me.

Even if I wanted to use letterpress, I couldn't these days.
I don't have space for the equipment, among other problems.
I can produce an entire book in a corner of my living room.
The main appeal of my books is the content -- text and
illustrations -- not the book as a physical object, although
I do try to make my books beautiful and sensually
satisfying.

The computer and laser printer enable me to make each book
an individual work of art because the typesetting process
has been reduced to moving electrons rather than lead. One
of the great frustrations of writing is the way a work
becomes set in stone once it's published. As you complete a
book you always see things that could be improved or
amplified. As Truman Capote said when asked when he was
going to finish Answered Prayers, "You never finish it. They
come and take it away from you."

Now I make an edition of one and I deliver it to my patron
and then I start on the next edition of one. It's very
satisfying. I still long to see my works published and
distributed in bookstores and reviewed in The New York Times
but I think that I would be satisfied now simply to make a
living from my one-of-a-kind books.


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