Winner AIGA Book Award
Winner International Book Design Award [Leipzig]
Exhibited and collected widely

“Versations resounds, echoes, and repeats in loud and soft—You almost cannot ever be the same once you’ve touched, felt and sensed this book… Do not miss
this book. It touches, it should
be touched.
Umbrella Judith Hoffberg

“Versations is one of the most brilliantly conceived and executed books of the past decade…”
Pharos Mathew Jennett

 

Excerpts from the introduction:

versations
is a study of human dialogue
a look at the poetics of communication
made up of sixteen characters
eight conversations
each in their own space
yet somehow co-existing
simultaneously
____
versations is a graph of the patterns of speech
____
it is a look at the polyrhythms
polyemotions
and polyhysteria
of the human experience
____
each unit of speech
correlates to a unit of thought
____
the shape of each conversation
is based on the qualities
of that interaction
____
characters are listed
at the top of each page
____
time moves from top to bottom
____
notations that occur on the
same horizontal line
are performed simultaneously
____
line lengths are determined by
breath breaks
as in verse
but the reading
as in conversation
is generally fluid
____
typographic stylings
such as bold face or italic
are used to indicate
particular emphasis
volume
or emotion
____
some characters
on the other hand
are more monochromatic

 

Here is an excerpt of a dialogue between Bruce and Alison. For this web-setting, Bruce is cast in a sans serif bold and Alison in a serif Roman. In the book, their flirtatious conversation (which takes place as they watch a paddle tennis match on Venice Beach) moves across the page in circular waves.

no
it’s just that i had
i was living with this lady and we broke up
like last week

i didn’t know you were living together

yeah we lived together for a while
got out
it didn’t work out
she wants to go to new york and dance
and i told her
NO WAY!

oh yeah
are you sad?

yeah
i’m sad about that
and my folks doing that whole rubbernecking
picking them up and driving them
they’re not real independent
my father doesn’t want to drive here

are they old?

not chronologically old
but physically mother has gotten very old
doesn’t walk well
and she’s always worried about her heart
running around with her nitroglycerin pills
she’ll probably outlive me

my mother’s been like that
she’s been taking those pills
ever since i can remember
she always thinks she’s about to die
my grandmother too
ever since i can remember
she’s been scared of dying
she’s eighty-five now and she can drop dead
any minute

how long your folks been here for?

i’m taking them to mexico tomorrow morning
i just said what the fuck
she can die
she die in mexico she can die here
it doesn’t make a difference
no i’m kidding
uh
she can go shopping in tijuana
she’ll love it!

how long you going for?

just two days
then we’ll come back either
oh man
look at that backhand!
she is so good

powerful

oh is she good!

i used to enjoy this game

me too
but i can only play with somebody i know
and like

exactly!
i’m the same way
but i don’t know anyone anymore
since rob and i. . .

i used to come out here
look for someone who wanted to volley
i played for months like that
then i started getting
sucked into doubles games
hated it
i don’t like doubles to begin with

i like to run around the court
but if you’re playing doubles you just stand there
that’s why i joined the westside Y
because they have a good aerobics program

is that what you take?

yeah
and for running
but my running is going down now
the other day i was pulling a run
and i just couldn’t go
arrrrhhhh

maybe you need to take a break
and do something else

that’s why i thought the hell with it
and joined the gym
i can always lose some weight

you look good to me

bulging pants

although i always think you look good
you know that
i’m one of your supporters

it’s good to hear a little support
i need it

well i feel it

i’m thinking of becoming a nun
a recluse at least

a nun? right up my alley
you can join my church

yeah?

i want to be a priest
we can have a real weird church

that sounds like fun
but then i might be in the same condition i’m in now

uh oh
what’s that?

you know
it could be just another game

ahh
the game

yeah the game

don’t play it as a game
do what you want to do
i have no rules
i only do what i like to do

well i do too
but there are only so many things i like to do

well it’s your own fault

OH
no no no
I don’t mean that!
i can find things to do
I always know how to have fun
it’s just that. . .

it’s difficult to find somebody to spend time with

arrrrhhhh

that’s why i really jumped on this thing
when i found this woman
and i liked her
and she was real supportive
and uh
she wanted to move in
so i let her

you let her?

it was that kind of thing you know
she didn’t want to hassle going back and forth
oh look at that backhand!

and now she went to new york to become a dancer?

she is a professional dancer
and you know
they got to put ALL their energies into dance

otherwise they’re not professional

it was starting to get on my nerves
she has ballet class in the afternoon
she teaches two classes in the morning
then she’s not around in the evening
with the social activities

all pertaining to dance?

supposedly
and she’s living in MY house
i’m picking up ALL the tabs
because she has NO money
and she’s coming home late at night
ALL exhausted
can’t move a muscle
you know
not tonight not tonight

sounds awful

don’t get me wrong
she’s a great lady
a HELL of a dancer
it was just starting to wear thin
not because of the money
you know money’s not that important to me
but i told her
it would be nice if you helped around the house
do the things i don’t like to do

uh huh

i do all the LADY things
i cook better than most women i know
i’m not real fancy but i cook good

uh huh

but i don’t like to
you know
i’m not gonna make curtains
right?
i’m not gonna do flower arrangements
i don’t do the pretty things in the house
so we had an argument
and she split for two days without calling
and i got really mad

so you’re free now

yeah i’m free
and i’m sad in a way
but i don’t really mind it as much as
i thought i would

i’m wondering
if you go through it so many times
through
so many relationships in your life
if it stops affecting you in the same way

i don’t want to ever get like that

yeah
no
i mean
me neither

 

 

 

versations was Warren Lehrer’s first offset printed book, which grew out of his MFA thesis at Yale. It began his lifelong attempt to capture the rhythms and cadences of thought, speech, and interpresonal communication within the space/time capsule that is the book form. versations is a setting for sixteen characters, eight conversations. Sarah the Doll Lady discusses her life as a survivor and dollmaker, a Hindu missionary professes universality, Sailor Bob confesses to wanting to murder his wife’s doctor, there is a Chinese love affair, a French flirtation, and a conversation between a clarinet and cello. The book functions both as a book to be read alone and as a score for performance in eight movements. Printed on all rag, transluscent paper, its pages reveal the echoes of voices past, present, and future. Cited by Judith Hoffberg as the first artist book and first MFA thesis to be awarded an AIGA book award.

versations written and designed by Warren Lehrer
original music composed by Dan Plonzey. Hand lettering by Jan Baker. 
Publshed in 1980. 10” x 16” x 96 pages. Hardcover, cloth over boards. Wiro bound. Printed in an edition of 300 copies via offset lithography on a transluscent Cranes 100% rag paper, 
employing fourteen typefaces.

Out of Print. 

SOLD OUT Collector’s Copies Available BUY NOW $4,000 plus shipping

 

 

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