worth her weight in gold, but not in typography

I finished reading Thousand Pieces of Gold the other day. The story was all right. A bit short in parts. I had to get used to how the book would jump spans of time. No, I’m still not sure I got used to it in the end. But it wasn’t too bad.

Polly Bemis’ story is so incredibly heartbreaking. It’s amazing, all that she went through, and she just kept going. (Well I guess you don’t have any other choice, if you don’t die…)

I don’t know though. The story seems lacking, somehow. I know, being a “biographical novel,” that it tells Polly’s life story, but in a way that makes it more story-ish. But it doesn’t really feel like either a biography or a novel. The beginning started well, the whole thing seemed fairly contiguous, but after being sold to the lady the story got more disjointed and jumped more and more from event to event.

I’ll just have to keep the book and try reading it again at a later time. Like I do with all books that don’t wow me. (The only book I got rid of after reading only once, or not even once, I couldn’t even finish it, was Mary, Called Magdalene. I expected it to be at least as good as Song of the Magdalene, by Donna Jo Napoli, if not better, considering the author, Margaret George, said she did research for her historical novel. But once I read that Mary supposedly heard an iconic idol talk to her, the book just went waaay downhill from there. I stopped reading at Jesus’ crucifixion.)

One part I found interesting, was Polly having to confine her body into special bindings. First her golden lotus, binding her feet so they were smaller. It made me think about other cultures where women had to change their body shape to conform to standards of beauty.

I don’t know much about other cultures and their histories (I am so ignorant. *hangs head*), so the only thing I could think of was corsets in western society. With the golden lotus, girls and women were limited in mobility, relying on servants to move them from place to place. With the corset, the women were free to move of their own accord, although I’m sure they couldn’t run away if their life depended on it. But it did restrict their lung capacity, and fainting couches were commonly used for when they couldn’t get enough oxygen.

And now? In western society women will starve themselves to look like models. I think that’s the most detrimental to health, no? We haven’t gotten much better. And in China leg lengthening surgeries are performed, where legs are broken and slowly stretched to grow more bone mass. Then there are those eyelid glue products in Japan (and other far east countries? I don’t really know) where you have to jab a stick into your eyelid just to get that eyelid line. I don’t know if there are any bad long-term effects with that though.

But back to Polly. Later, while she was still in China, it was mentioned that her mom gave her a bodice that would flatten her chest. I’d never heard of that before, and wondered why that would be a standard of beauty.—Although in Japan, with the kimono and the obi and everything, they had women looking like logs as well. I just don’t get it. But then I do live in a time when “bigger is better”…

Then even later in Thousand Pieces of Gold, Polly had to wear a corset! The unfairness of life! Going from one confinement (which she never quite got over — her feet had been bound for too long before they were unbound, and never fully regained their mobility) to another. I wonder if she willingly wore the corset after she got out of slavery, or choose not to, or felt she had to in order to fit in with other midwesterners.

The photos included in the book were a nice touch. They made the story, and Polly, more real. (I think the last photo of her is so cute!) Because haha, it being a biography doesn’t make it real enough.

Despite all of what I’ve said so far, the only real complaint I have is with the printing. The typeface isn’t a monospace one, but it’s set so large and dark that it feels like one. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Courier or other monospaced fonts like other designers do. I guess code runs deep in my veins. *laugh* But I definitely don’t want to read a book set in any such typeface.

What’s even worse is that I could forgive the typesetting (perhaps it’s meant for an older audience, who have poor eyesight), because there’s a much worse typography sin committed in the book—there are double spaces after every period! Gasp and shock and horror! Since the type is set so large, there is less leading required to make it legible and so it looks to me like it’s 110% of the type size. Nothing wrong with that. But because the type size is so large, the word spacing is also large, and therefore the double spacing is extra doubly large! And I see all these empty areas in the text, and augh I can’t stand it! As my typography teacher said, “You could fly a plane through there!” In this book, there’s more space for planes than at LAX!

I shouldn’t complain though, I got the book at my library for $1. If I do decide to keep the book, I’ll just give this book back to the library (they can make another dollar, woot!) and go find a nicer printing at Borders.

4 thoughts on “worth her weight in gold, but not in typography

  1. Noellium

    “In western society women will starve themselves to look like models.”

    That reminded me of one of the group presentations we saw in Art and Mass Media, on body modifications. Apparently, there are plus size models—not that many, but they’re there and they do look good (the thing with plus size models is they can’t be larger than a certain size). They’re not glamourized as much as the skinnier models though, the group said.

    Ahhh, the double spacing after the period. I’ve been doing that since junior high, but my Graphic Design teacher from Moorpark informed me that it’s only done in term papers. Only problem is after over ten years of doing it, it’s become a habit. It’s a good thing web browsers ignore double spaces (unless if one of them’s a non-breaking space). :P

  2. Jeidai

    Ah, yeah. I was just thinking of those poster models for anorexia that European countries are beginning to ban from shows. :)

    Hah, reading your comment in my e-mail I noticed you had double spaces after periods. XD I just found that funny.

    Double spacing comes from typewriter days when the letters were monospaced. My typography teacher said if the typeface you’re using is a good one, then the designer will have taken into account the space needed between the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next.

    Since I hadn’t written many term papers lately, it only took me a week to get over that habit. :P

    I thought this page had an interesting discussion going on about single spaces versus double spaces. I haven’t read all of the comments though.

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