- Fonts Of Wisdom
Black Scat Books
188 Pages; Print, $12.95
Marco and Iarlaith are son and father, a couple of artists living along the riverbanks in a run-down cottage in an unnamed town. Barely getting by, both pick up work where they can, using the talents they possess to survive and take care of each other. Marco is an assemblage artist (and musician) who gathers detritus found along the riverbank, creates found-object sculpture, and sells his work at a local consignment shop, earning $25 per sculpture. Tourists seem to enjoy his unique, "local art" and are willing to pay full price, but since he only earns a small percentage of the sale from the consignment shop, he is left constantly broke with not much chance of a breakthrough beyond his limited world.
Iarlaith, Marco's father, does what he has always done to keep himself and his son alive: he works in a foundry that produces fonts, an occupation that he is, "unable to take any pride in," and although he had "twice requested to be transferred to the Zapf Chancery," his requests "had been denied both times." He collects letters—upper and lower case, sans-serif fonts, and broken sentences—part-time during the week. His finds the "Romain du Roi, a typeface designed in 1692 for King Louis XIV" to be the "font of all wisdom"; however, a good many of the fonts he finds in the foundry are irregular or broken rather than regal, so they require sorting and (when damaged beyond repair) often discarding. Gerdes, an editor himself, as well as a college professor of writing, has undoubtedly come across many "broken" words and sentences in his years of teaching and editing the Journal of Experimental Fiction and is therefore likely to be no stranger to the tedium of "sorting" fonts.
Although he wryly warns readers in the dedication to his son, Ulysses, that
many readers may be tempted to draw parallels between us and Marco and Iarlaith, they should understand that these are fictions that are not really about us at all, other than Marco and Iarlaith share a deep affection for one another, which is the hallmark of our relationship as well.
It is clear Gerdes is having a bit of fun with his audience from the beginning. The dedication concludes with a sincere note of gratitude to his (writer/musician) son, providing the reader insight into the mutual respect the pair have for each other, as well as the symbiotically creative life they share.
For fun, Marco and Iarlaith play word games, such as filling in tricky crossword puzzles and constructing witty puns, often inspired by the broken pieces of font. They also watch bad [End Page 20] television (usually game shows) and drink various types of (usually cheap) alcohol, either at home or the local pub with other Irish-named friends. For exercise, they trudge to the local market on paydays for packages of hot dogs and weak beer for dinner.
Romance is not entirely out of the picture, as Iarlaith still remembers his ex-wife Barb as "Barbed-Wire," a woman so mean she taunted Iarlaith even when he was sick with the flu. Gerdes retains his sense of humor even as he describes Barb's cruelty in "Iarlaith and His Coffin." Terriby sick with a bad cold, Iarlaith recalls how he had tended so lovingly to his ex-wife when she had been sick, but when it came to his turn, she practically ignored him, leaving "for hours on end to go shopping for herself," and later locking herself in the bedroom when he had stepped out to make some soup, taunting, "I hear your coffin, but you can't come in."
Marco's love-interest is Ariane, an "early middle aged, a bit older" woman who has "kindness in her face." He meets her at the local pawn shop when he decides to take his "precious National Resolectric Sunburst guitar" there to sell it so he and his father can eat or pay bills...