Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse)

Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse)

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Author: John Cage 

Publisher: Siglio (2019)

Now available in an expanded paperback edition, Diary registers Cage’s assessment of the times in which he lived as well as his often uncanny portents about the world we live in now. With a great sense of play as well as purpose, Cage traverses vast territory, from the domestic minutiae of everyday life to ideas about how to feed the world. He used chance operations to determine not only the word count and the application of various typefaces but also the number of letters per line, the patterns of indentation, and―in the case of Part Three, originally published by Something Else Press―color. The unusual visual variances on the page become almost musical as language takes on a physical and aural presence.

While Cage used chance operations to expand the possibilities of creating and shaping his work beyond the limitations of individual taste, Diary nonetheless accumulates into a complex reflection of Cage’s sensibilities as a thinker and citizen of the world, illuminating his social and political awareness, as well as his idealism and sense of humor: it becomes an oblique but indelible portrait of one the most influential figures of the 20th-century American avant-garde.

Collecting all eight parts into a single volume, coeditors Joe Biel and Richard Kraft also used chance operations to render the entire text in various combinations of red and blue (used by Dick Higgins and Alison Knowles for Part Three) as well as to apply a single set of 18 fonts to the entire work. In the editors’ note, Kraft and Biel elucidate the procedure of chance operations and demonstrate its application, giving readers a rare opportunity to see how the text is transformed.

This expanded paperback edition reproduces the 2015 hardback edition, with a new essay by mycologist and Cage aficionado David Rose and, most important, an addendum that includes many facsimile pages of Cage’s handwritten notebook of a ninth part in progress, bringing the reader into compelling proximity to Cage’s process and the raw material from which Diary was made.