Books

new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Book design by icon king Chermayeff; New England Society book awards;

Eye for design

Graphic designer Ivan Chermayeff, who died in December, was the eye and mind behind some of the most iconic corporate logos of the 20th century, including Showtime’s spotlight, the Smithsonian’s bright yellow sun, and locally pieces for the T, the New England Aquarium, Harvard University Press, and WGBH.

For its inaugural exhibition, the newly opened Katherine Small Gallery in Somerville, which will exhibit works of typography, graphic design, and other printed material, presents a collection of Chermayeff’s lesser known work, that of his early book cover designs.

Forty-one covers highlight Chermayeff’s bold typography (Alastair Reid’s poems Oddments Inklings Omens Moments’’ is inviting both visually and aurally), elegant use of organic forms (particularly the lovely leaves, each as individual as a snowflake, on the cover of Reyner Banham’s The Aspen Papers’’), and striking color combinations (the persimmon text of Lajos Ergi’s name stands out against the plum colored background of The Art of Dramatic Writing.’’)

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The covers, most produced in the middle decades of the last century, are arresting, confident, and not without whimsy. “Ivan Chermayeff: Mostly Early Covers” runs through Aug. 4 at the Katherine Small Gallery, 108 Beacon St., Somerville. For more information, visit ksmallgallery.com.

Books that celebrate the region and its culture

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The New England Society in the City of New York recently announced the winners of their annual book awards, which honor works that celebrate the region and its culture. In the fiction category, Christina Baker Kline won for her novel A Piece of the World’’ (William Morrow), which centers around Christina Olson, the Cushing, Maine, subject of painter Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting “Christina’s World.’’ Douglas Winiarski took the nonfiction prize for his book, Darkness Falls on the Land of Light: Experiencing Religious Awakenings in Eighteenth-Century New England’’ (University of North Carolina). In the art and photography category, Cullen Murphy won for Cartoon County: My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe’’ (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) about the pop-culture and comic strip artists of the Connecticut School, as did Diane Waggoner for East of the Mississippi: Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Photography’’ (Yale). The organization of New Englanders living in the Big Apple will present its awards June 14 in New York City.

A movement for city planning

One of the many things Bostonians love to argue (or gripe) about is the layout of the city. In her new book People Before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, And a New Movement for City Making,’’ (University of Massachusetts) Karilyn Crockett (pictured) looks at a government plan that most residents today would agree was a bad idea. That proposal took shape in the middle of the 20th century and would’ve allowed highways to slice across the center of the city, disproportionately affecting the lives of people of color in the city’s poorer neighborhoods. Crockett tells the story of a group of people from various backgrounds and neighborhoods, from Boston and beyond, who worked together to stop the highway from happening. Crockett excavates archives, mines oral history, and tells a tightly woven tale that reminds us of the strength of people to make change, and the collaborative nature of what it means to build a city.

Coming out

Name Me a Word: Indian Writers Reflect on Writing’’ edited by Meena Alexander (Yale)

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin’’ by Terrance Hayes (Penguin)

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Convenience Store Woman’’by Sayaka Murata, translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori (Grove)

Pick of the week

Lorna Ruby of Wellesley Books recommends Look Alive Out There’’ by Sloane Crosley: “Every time I sit down to read Crosley’s brilliant, funny essays I realize how much I enjoy how she thinks, what she pays attention to, and what she remembers. Sharp-witted, laugh out loud funny, Sedaris-esque — my words fail me, but my feelings are very strong. Wherever she goes and whatever she has to say about it, I want to be there.”

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Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.