Johanna Drucker's Artist Books
An online repository of facsimiles, metadata, and commentary



Project Statement

Narratology takes up the themes of women and narrative that are one of the ongoing topics in my books. The text was originally written in a single Puss in Boots notebook given to me by Gino Lee. The outline of genres on the title page was inspired by receipt of a postcard in the mail with the question, "Would you like to write for money?" The solicitation was from a pulp fiction house whose genres were, as listed -- Historical romance, Sweet romance, and so on, through Glitz. The book was an exercise on interweaving versions of my own history, fantasy, imagined projections through tales and texts read and studied over the years. The opening statement in the book states the project very clearly, "The stories according to which the possibilities of living a life gained access to the psychic theater staging the imaginary events as real." The counter statement that intercuts with this completes the premise: "A narratological bias against the truth upstages the ordinary offerings of supposedly lived experience, polluting the psychological atmosphere with all the smokescreen pleasures of received knowledge. The fantasmatic projection onto the real plays out its lines with all the seductive facility of tales told in the tabloids – signifying everything." I was keenly interested in countering claims of authenticity being put forth as the "lived" against the theories of constructed meaning lived in the symbolic. The 1990s were a fraught moment for theory, and theoretical feminism was coming particularly under attack by reactionary approaches to lived experience.

Production Narrative

The text was set in Quark taking full advantage of the "stretch to fit" and "shrink" properties of the program. After years of letterpress, this was a tremendous luxury, and satisfied my greediness for format control. I still had to rewrite in places to get the text to fit—lengthening, shortening, etc. The images all had sources of inspiration, many quite identifiable, but all were redrawn by my hand, edited, scanned, and then hand-colored in the final edition, one at a time. The files were output as film and I made them into polymer plates, my first venture into that medium. I'd helped Anne Noonan buy a platemaker, and in exhange, got to use it and to have the plates at cost. The production was still expensive for me at the time. The printing took place at the Bow and Arrow, and the paper probably should have been dampened. The ink is very light, though overall it produces a soft effect. The binding benefitted enormously from Nora Ligorano's generosity and Brad Freeman's help. We spent several days in her studio cutting, gluing, making the cases, then doing the sewing, and casing in. I finished the casing in up in New Haven, after we moved, and may well have finished the sewing then too. But the hand-coloring went on and on. Even now, 2006, ten copies remain to be painted, and are usually only done on demand.

Critical Analysis

Design Features

typographic: Franklin Gothic and Memphis in a variety of sizes and weights, all Quark. The Memphis is of course an echo of my earlier love and use of Stymie. The Franklin went well with it. The interwoven and intercut texts use contrast of weight to create interest or distinction among strains of text.

imagery: From pulp and popular sources, hand drawn, scanned, made into polymer, printed, and hand-colored.

graphical: The layout and format of the pages allows for multiple levels of reading as well as combinatoric changes because of the structure of the pages.

openings: Page strips and folded sheets make each opening a multiple opening. One set of pages is actually a single sheet cut into four bands, each inserted into the sequence so that they move from top to bottom of the book in order. The other set of pages always has an uneven fold so that there is an opening within the opening. The result is that there are several recombinations of text and image in each opening, but everything moves in sequence.

turnings: They shift from banded pages to uneven pages.

Critical Discussion

Poetical, ironic, synthetic, a work that moves between lived and imaginary versions of experience.



Johanna Drucker

type: initiating


Publication Information

publisher: self-published

production: 1991-00-00:1994-00-00
publication: 1994-00-00

Aesthetic Profile

artists' books (LCSH)

themes: The narratives that provide form and shape to women's experience.

content form:
narrative (local)
experimental text (local)

publication tradition:
artists' book (local)

related works: Simulant Portrait, Against Fiction, and A Girl's Life are quite strongly related.

other influences: Images from illustrated novels and pulp fiction.

community: none

Related Documents

manuscript type: texts

location: artist's archive

note: Early versions, notebooks, edited versions all exist.

manuscript type: mockups

location: artist's archive

note: Many stages and versions of this project exist.


Publication Information

edition type: editioned

publisher: self-published

place: Bow and Arrow Press, Cambridge, MA

production: 1991-00-00:1994-00-00
publication: 1994-00-00

edition size: 70


horizontal: 10.4 inches closed

vertical: 12.25 inches closed

depth: .4 inches closed

Production Information

production means:
offset (local)
painting (local)

binding: hand sewn (local)

binding: case binding (AAT) Nora Ligorano designed the binding and helped me to execute most of the edition.

bookBlock: paper Rives lightweight
endsheets: paper handmade paper

ink (local)
gouache (local)
watercolor (local)


format: codex (AAT)

cover: Glistening gold fabric with a shiny red die-stamp of a woman sitting on a setee. This was work done for hire, not by the artist.

color: yes


pagination: unpaginated 64 pages

numbered?: numbered

signed?: signed


The text for this book was written in Spring 1991 in a "Puss in Boots" notebook which was a present from Gino Lee. It was reworked, tightened, and edited up through 1993. Images were culled, copied, transformed, redrawn and then computer manipulated before being Quarked into the dummies, output on Linotronic, and then turned into polymer plates. The book was printed on Rives lightweight, the images handpainted by the author. The book was handbound in die-stamped covers. Franklin Gothic and Memphis have been used throughout, but much distorted through various Quark features. Many thanks to Anne Noonan for technical assistance and services, to the Bow and Arrow for use of their facilities, to Jim Barondess, Gino Lee and Charles Steele for gracious hospitality and companionship during the printing, and to Brad Freeman for advice and affection throughout.