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Production Narrative

by J. Drucker

This book was printed using Stymie light in 12 point, from John McBride's collection (unless I had purchased the type from him by then, which I think may have been the case). It was set and printed all in one day, my birthday, in 1977. I was in a very funny mood, and seem to remember that I went and ate a hamburger afterwards and that it was the first meat I had eaten for five years, since the time I had met and fallen in love with and lived with my first boyfriend. We had parted two years earlier, but I'd kept the vegetarian habits. In any case, the book felt like a landmark to me, a milestone of sorts, ritualistically produced as a sign of maturity. I was turning 25, and the roundness of that number felt monumental. I was keen to show who I was, what I had done, as well as what I was doing. Spending that quiet Memorial Day alone at the Press was extremely important to me, a kind of consolidation of autonomy and self-determination captured in the printed work of those pages. I was exhausted at the end, totally, riding my bike back to Oakland through the quiet holiday streets. But the rush of exhilaration at having determined to do something and having done it, all at once, buoyed me. The paper was all offcuts from the Print Center, and the cardboard was just scrap. The only production costs were the labels, "Fragile," and they cost me about $5, which was somewhat appalling to me at the time (I think I paid $120 a month for rent, lived on another $60 a month, and was saving desperately for a planned trip in the fall).

Critical Analysis

by J. Drucker

Design Features

typographic: Simple Stymie light, typeset in conventional form, delicate on the pages, as suited the texts.

imagery: None.

graphical: A clean, light layout as a presentation that stressed the texts in legible, accessible form.

openings: The book was assembled into an accordion fold strip.

structure: Accordion fold.

Critical Discussion

Fragile is definitely a work of juvenilia, but the work isn't immature. The writing is sophisticated, but a bit abstract, allusive, rather than direct. Even the sense of these as personal texts would be easy to miss given the complexity of their composition. They speak from rather than about the difficulties of late adolescent shyness and are very much the expression of perception and sensation. The presentation suits the works, echoing their peculiar floating disconnect from any particular tradition, and also, their lightness, delicacy.

Detailed Analysis

"How at once pale and opaque / ten-year recollection of a glass-paned afternoon/ sensation still formed, pre- articulate, and she was frightened behind the reptile, in her small space" or "I live in blue with my dear sisters, beatitude and quietude." These lines stay with me, shot through with memory and girlish sensitivity, the images of a life in Philadelphia and its longings and frustrations.



Johanna Drucker

type: initiating


born: United States
active: United States
citizenship: United States

birth: 1952-05-30

Publication Information

edition type: editioned

publisher: Chased Press

place: Berkeley, California at the West Coast Print Center

publication: 1977-05-30


horizontal: 6.3 inches closed

vertical: 6.3 inches closed

depth: .2 inches closed

Production Information

production means:
letterpress (local)

binding: other Unbound--accordian fold.

bookBlock: paper

ink (local)


format: accordion (AAT)

cover: The covers are two pieces of brown cardboard. A piece of string is attaced to the front cover by a red sticker with white writing that reads: "Fragile Handle with Care." The string can be wrapped around the work and tied in a bow to hold it closed.

color: no


pagination: unpaginated 12 pages

numbered?: unnumbered

signed?: unsigned



Exhibition Information

exhibition history: As above, only in exhibitions of a larger selection of books.