Deconstruction & Design

Scamble and Cramble Cover DesignIn the process of deconstruction we discover new ideas. We need not start with a design in hand. We don’t necessarily need a plan. Unless, of course, there is some destination we are particularly interested in, we need to get to. If that’s the case, we’ll usually find ourselves on the wrong path, wrong way on a one way street, people barking directions at us, flipping us off. But if we begin with deconstructing that destination, we often find we discover interesting things along the route we end up taking we would have otherwise missed. There will be constraints. Fences and gates. Do Not Enter signs. No Solicitors. Beware the Dangerous Critic!

At the same time, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for directions, listen to our critics, gather advice, ask for consent, patience, forgiveness of our trespasses. That the severe critic may be lurking behind the next corner, hiding in a recessed alcove doorway, spitting sunflower seed shells from an open second story window, pulling us over to ask for license and registration – that the severe critic lurks in the shadows of our path is a good thing. The critic keeps us awake when we might otherwise fall asleep, and reminds us of our responsibilities to audience, sense, time, and place, direction, design, and deconstructions.

Coming Soon!

Common keyboard signs and punctuation marks become characters in this experimental children’s book for readers of all ages. Scamble and Cramble are two cats observing, interpreting, and commenting on daily events. Other animals come and go, too, changing with text and form and story. “Scamble and Cramble” may work best for independent middle grade readers. Younger children may enjoy perusing the book with an older guide. The book’s Concrete Poetry techniques use standard keyboard symbols and readily accessible font types and sizes. Readers may be encouraged to explore more the world of concrete poetry.

  • Paperback: 108 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (June 24, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1533501084
  • ISBN-13: 978-1533501080
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 8 inches

Scamble and Cramble
Two Hep Cats
and Other Tall Tales


  1. johndockus says:

    Hi Joe: You should check out Tim Miller’s blog, Word and Silence. There’s some spiritual affinity between you two guys. Not too long ago I discovered Tim’s blog. A good guy and a very pure lover of literature. Certainly, like yourself, much more well read and knowledgeable than I. Something gracious and smooth flowing about him. I’m more crotchety, zig-zaggy, not so much a lover of words but easily getting impatient and annoyed with them. Probably why I’d ultimately like to take a vow of silence and do all my expressing through drawing and painting.

    I noted to Tim: “You have an interesting, personalized use of the “&”. They are spread down pages like hieroglyphic love-knots.”

    He replied: “you mention the ampersands in HOS (that’s short for his book “To the House of the Sun”), & they were all over the poems that never made it, & obviously in H&L. (That’s short for his book “Hymns and Lamentations”) that was a great mode to be in, & some of the reviews have mentioned how distracting they are in HOS, but I don’t get it; I was trying to mimic the “ands” of the King James Bible, which I hear is accurate to the Hebrew, where their word for “and” is barely a mark, & it seemed an ampersand is the same, barely spoken if you read the poem aloud just right; & ampersands strike me as looking like musical notes.”

    This children’s book cover is more immediate in visual delight and dare I say more sensible than that other one you had with the color blocks strewn across. You won’t lose the attention of the kiddies so quickly with this cover, though you may still lose it. That’s part of the challenge dealing with kids. That wandering and short attention span. Something a little off kilter, a little wacky, is always a delight and pulls back in, but to go too far in it may threaten the comfort zone of many kids, making them feel stupid, and scare them away. We’re talking about the majority of kids, not the rare breed of prodigies. In dealing with children I think it’s very important to have an even exaggerated welcoming voice and “let’s have some fun” in the spirit. That should be firmly established, maintained and hardly ever lost touch of, and out of that can be sprung the challenges and surprises.

    The yellow ampersand and where you placed it is a great touch, emerging from the texture you’ve made with the splotches and dots of bright and happy color flung on. The squirt of white across like cursive handwriting is like getting one’s friend in the eye in the school cafeteria by directing and squeezing the plastic ketchup bottle, a funny punctuation mark, a good counterpoint to the hard edges of the font chosen for the title. Somehow, seeing the name “Scamble” and your general overall treatment makes me think of the painting technique called scumbling.

    Knowing what your polished and painted carved wood Hep Cats look like, I positively smiled when I read “Tall Tales” there.

    1. Joe Linker says:

      John: Interesting etymology to ampersand, which apparently began as “and per se,” a kind of short chant, and…. I will check out Tim’s blog. Thanks for the referral, and for the catsup bottle as paint brush spray idea. I’ll have to try that. The idea of the & in my little book derives mainly from my interest in concrete poetry, specifically the very unique Anthology of Concrete Poetry (Emmett Williams, ed., 1967, Something Else Press . On the front cover of my book, you see <<<“>>>. That’s Scamble. Cramble is an &. Thanks also for giving me the impetus to look further at my design for this book. There are constraints including my lack of artistic talent, the difficulty of turning drawings into usable pages that are not cost prohibitive, in addition to the regular difficulties of writing, particularly satire, which is so often easily misunderstood. Then there is the idea of writing as design, construction, which is almost always deconstructed by readers using their own tools. But who would have it any other way? Ambiguities are real. Another interest I have in punctuation marks comes from Adorno – what the marks might look like, apart from their meaning, are added to meaning. Another interest is in the so-called “rules” of punctuation, which usually are not rules at all but conventions. Also highly recommend John Cage to you, particularly his collection called “Silence.”

      1. johndockus says:

        Hi Joe:

        I read the short Adorno essay on punctuation. Unexpected delight and stimulation in his grasp of the subject and in his masterful display, even a playfulness, which is perhaps surprising from Adorno. Wonderful essay. One might even say it is definitive and perfect. One could read it over and over.

        1. Joe Linker says:

          We may find ourselves falling into a pit of punctuation. It might be best to humor them.

    2. Joe Linker says:

      John: Can you reply with link to Tim Miller’s blog?

      1. johndockus says:

        Hi Joe:

        Here’s link to Tim Miller’s blog:

        1. Joe Linker says:

          Thanks, John. It’s a big blog! Lots going on. I have not located the &’s yet, but I’ll keep looking, and I’ll be following. BTW, another influential paper on errors, who makes them, who sees them, and why. Very influential paper (for me): Check it out:

          1. Joe Linker says:

            …&, Speaking of design…I’ve no idea why my replies are coming out in bold font! Way too emphatic. As you may have noticed, the recent design crisis has me changing up the template of the Toads blog. I tired 3 or 4 new templates. Oh, well…

          2. johndockus says:

            Oh, you won’t find Tim’s comment about his use of “&”s and his

  2. johndockus says:

    Oops, got cut off- won’t find his comment at his blog. That was in emails we exchanged. Yes, there’s much at his blog. I like the simplicity of his presentation.

  3. bristlehound says:

    I guess understanding the tiger would see you safe where others are taken down!
    Everyone’s a critic. It seems to be harder to compliment.
    Interesting slant on visual intelligence there Joe. We do walk with our eyes closed, so better to wear some rose coloured glasses.B

    1. Joe Linker says:

      Thx, B. Most of us see what we expect to see, and look for our favorite mistakes and errors. In a sense, when we see a mistake, we’ve created the mistake. But the mistake is in our own vision of things, where vision is a convention, and, as you say, not much of one. Kaleidoscopic view!

  4. johndockus says:

    I think there is a time to be critic, and a time to compliment. I myself think it’s easier – safer – to do nothing but compliment. It never rocks the boat or goes against the grain. It never handles and examines the goods, to see if something may be defective and poorly constructed. It just takes everything for granted. The worst kind of compliment is flattery. It is false and deceptive. It appeals not to honesty and truth, but to ego and vanity. It’s easy to tell someone what they want to hear all the time, much more difficult to be honest and truthful and know that it probably, at least at first, won’t be received with an open mind and gratitude.

    I suppose Cordelia was in the wrong for telling her father King Lear the plain truth which sent him on his rage and descent into madness, and not being like her sisters and telling the old man what he wanted to hear for their own personal advantage.

    I think a good critic is like a good and faithful friend.

    I would qualify what Bristle-hound wrote and say that if everyone is a critic, there are many bad ones and some good ones. The bad ones are just complimenters in disguise, on the hunt for what only pleases them, and in the meantime only being disparaging. I would agree if one had to choose between two lesser goods that an open complimenter is preferable to a bad critic.

    1. Joe Linker says:

      I think I get what yr saying here, John. But I’m not sure we are working with the same definition of “critic.” Your first sentence sets up a dichotomy: either we criticize (i.e. point out problems) or we complement. But I think a good critic does some of the following:
      1. Identifies and explains intent, which includes explaining intended audience, form and content, style, argument.
      2. Is the work good given it’s intent and audience? I’m not a fan of thriller films, but I get that “Jaws” is a good work because it satisfied what its makers wanted. And it satisfies the values of its audience. In other words, a work is good if it fulfills its purpose, even if its purpose is bad, even if the audience is full of philistines.
      3. Criticism need neither complement nor insult. First, the critic should explain, teach, show, compare, discover precursors. In “Kafka and his Precursors,” Borges explains, too, that new work may change our view of older work, so, for example, Kafka may be said to have influenced Shakespeare, since we read Shakespeare differently after having read Kafka.
      4. Who’s to say or explain, though, the experience of reading in the process of reading? A good critic may describe that experience.

      1. johndockus says:

        This is you at your best, Joe. You diversify and fine-tune many good points. I agree with them all. I just can’t abide by compliment, cut and dried, being placed above as more difficult than criticism. I suppose I do refer to my own personal experience. Ultimately one must be true to oneself. This is what drives me to speak up and offer to the the best of my ability what I think in the first place.

        I think the hashing out is what sifts out the good. The hashing out must happen, however, or everything remains indifferent and neutral. Conflict is at the heart of the process, which is never easy and involves some stress and anxiety, because of the unpredictable factor, but avoidance of it quite often leads to more harm than good, or to a dwindling and swindling of quality.

        1. Joe Linker says:

          I guess my unfortunate misspelling of compliment has confused the discussion somewhat. So we are talking about compliment as opposed to criticism. What do we mean by each? By compliment, I think we agree that we find something positive to say in a nice way to make the artist feel good about their work; and we agree that such a compliment often does more harm than good, for several reasons, no need to repeat.

          But I’m still not sure what we mean by critic or criticize or criticism. By criticism I mean to explain, explicate, provide exegesis (which is to interpret, guide, lead the way in – in such a way that we can find our way back out on our own), and that has little to do with compliment or insult (or whatever the opposite of compliment is). It does however complement (using my error now to my advantage) the work the artist has made. Thus the critic complements, or completes, the work. I am stipulating the meaning of criticism. Criticism means that, here. Criticism is not a category, like produce versus dairy in a market.

      2. johndockus says:

        I should note “compliment” as distinguished from “complement.” Those are two different things. My original comment addresses “compliment”.

        1. Joe Linker says:

          There you go, finding errors again. I meant to complement your compliment (i.e. complete).

          1. johndockus says:

            No argument from me here, Joe. Thanks for the clarification. This is all refreshing to me. I gotta run so I can’t write more at present. I hope I haven’t left Bristlehound in the lurch over there. Not my intention. Greetings, Bristlehound. I enjoy the remarks you’ve made I’ve come across. This is all in the good-natured spirit of exploring and discovery. “Oh look,” I said digging in Joe’s yard, “I’ve found a bone to pick.”

          2. Joe Linker says:

            Yes, kudos to B. And to be to be clear, John, I meant compliment when I typed complement. But see how much the error furthered the discussion. Fitzgerald was a hapless speller. It shows in his letters to Hemingway, which he sometimes spells with two m’s, sometimes one m. So maybe there’s hope for me yet. Though they both came to unhappy endings. In any case, a good critic is an artist. Agreed?

          3. johndockus says:

            All of this actually proves all of our points. Not abandoning it too soon but keeping with it, the error led to greater clarification, and also introduced other possible routes of inquiry. A good lesson is in this. One should not be afraid of erring. One must have a certain amount of faith that things will work themselves out, if one keeps with it, and will eventually carry all parties involved to some mutually beneficial understanding.

            I don’t know if a good critic is necessarily an artist, but it certainly helps.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.