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Two-Dimensional Man Hardcover – September 19, 2017
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Now, while true this book features numerous images, I own many books with more images that have sat on my shelf unopened for decades. What compelled me through this book was its resonance to me, personally. Its appeal, in my opinion, is that it is not about design at all. It is about one man’s life. The book is funny, frank, and self-effacing. It reads like the author is narrating the story rather than describing it — an inaudible audible book. The author’s restraint, as in his design work, distinguishes it. As a writer (never an author), I read this constantly thinking, “I wish I could write like this.”
Whether he accepts it or not, Paul Sahre is esteemed for the multiplicity of his talents. He is among the few I know in our chummy (and often incestuous) world of communication arts whose achievements have made him more approachable rather than less; whose ego has never outgrown his accomplishments. He is, in short, far more than what we have ever known, understood, or read about him—and this book proves it. As good as Sahre is at “design,” I think he is a better writer. He approaches each essay with the kind of courage that writing coaches and editors discourage. It is fortunate that his mentor from Kent State University, j.Charles Walker, did not impose on his students a Division of Writing Policy Statement, too.
I have long wondered what about my life might deserve the leisure reading time of others. Sahre reminds us that any life is interesting if we live long enough and open our minds wide enough to put it into perspective. To compose the many unrelated experiences and memories of our lives into one composition—then share it —is worthy of someone’s attention, if only our mother’s. Of the house Sahre’s parents acquired and in which the author spent much of his youth, he writes, “Hundreds of identical ranch-style houses, each covered with identical metal siding, sat at the end of identical driveways with identical manicured lawns.”
The repetition of the word identical (with photo to demonstrate its identical-ness) appears on page 36. By this time, we already know there is nothing ordinary about the lives inside this house: youngest brother, Kenny, becomes Angus, runs away to the circus and dies of injuries suffered in a fall inside that same house some 30 years later; eldest brother Greg is rendered deaf and developmentally impaired due to a prenatal infection that impacts the family for two generations; as a boy, Sahre’s father watched from the bleachers of Yankee Stadium as Lou Gehrig cried.
He began seeing the leaves of trees in third grade the moment he puts on his first pair of eyeglasses: “I couldn’t believe how much detail there was in the world…There was complexity everywhere. Suddenly clouds had finite edges. I could read distant signs, and I could see that there were planes way, way up there. It was fall…I kept telling my mom, ‘I can see the leaves in the trees.’” A lifetime later, he reveals what it means to truly “see,” finding detail in the blurry images of the many thousand snapshots in the boxes of his memory, then composing them into a single, vital, resonate narrative that moves you.
Thank you, Mr. Sahre for opening a window into your life. It is the normalcy that invites us in. But it is the gentle reminders inside that remind us of the courage required to live our truth. You have convinced me, a writer, that what may appear from the curb as banal and unremarkable, is, upon closer inspection, wonder and horror, triumph and disaster, love and loss— a life of countless intersections with lives of countless others that makes a story worth sharing. If I ever become an author, I will credit you with giving me the courage to admit I was probably gay the moment I posed for a 1973 Christmas photo wearing matching belt, hat, and boots. It had nothing to do with my mother. — Matthew Porter