He’s Got Issues

Another bit from the 1989 treasure trove.

Back at the time, I was doing all of the major graphics work for the downtown Powell’s Books and for the corporate offices. Not that that was anything particularly fancy. The famous “City of Books” poster pre-dated my beginning there in 1987, and my skills were never in the artistic realm. I just knew how to use Adobe Illustrator and Aldus PageMaker, both applications which were then pretty new.

Powell's City of Books postcard. ©1984 Stephen T. Leflar
Powell’s “City of Books” postcard from the late 1980s. Artwork copyright 1984 by Stephen T. Leflar.

I’d somehow managed to convince Powell’s to spend something like $10K on a Mac II, a LaserPrinter and some software, and set up my own little niche in the company doing a newsletter for employees, shelf signs, working on the first color-coded map of the store, whacking out advertising for readings, and whatever other special projects came my way.

One of those special projects was Powell’s participation in the ACLU’s Banned Book Week. As one of the primary sponsors, the company took on the production of the poster in 1989. Oregonian editorial artist Jack Ohman did a cartoon for the big graphic draw, and I incorporated that into a flag-inspired design listing the events.

An Uncensored Celebration: 1989 poster for Portland's Banned Book Week and 200th anniversary of the Bill of Rights

The 1989 celebration was particularly significant, because September 25th marked the 200th anniversary of the completion of the Bill of Rights. Anyway, a day or so before the first events, a letter showed up at Powell’s Travel Store, which was in Pioneer Courthouse Square where KGW now has a studio. Somehow the letter ended up in my hands, which seems odd in retrospect because I wasn’t the liason with the ACLU or anything important, I was just the guy who did the layout of the poster. It appeared to be a photocopy; one of the pages has material on the left side that seems to have gotten cut off in the copy process. The same page has a faint line near the bottom and is jaggedly torn across. The postmark on the envelope is 23 September. It’s not obvious which of the pages was supposed to be read first.

Crazy letter about Banned Books Week

Crazy letter about Banned Books Week

Considering that one of the books that was being discussed for the repeated attempts to ban it was Catcher in the Rye — which is filled with proto-man issues — I think Mr. G. Really may have missed the boat.