debbie millman

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dominican Republic Tonight, on the Lower East Side

Field Tested Books

The cool cats at Coudal are continuing their biennial effort of an ambitious undertaking called Field Tested Books. It is a collection of essays from many different authors writing about a time when a place they were in influenced a book they were reading, or vise versa.

One of my essays is included in this uber-fab collection. I wrote about one of my favorite novels ever. I will be reading it tonight at 7pm, at The Delancey on 168 Delancey Street. The list of authors reading tonight include Liz Danzico,
Steven Heller, Randy J. Hunt, Jason Santa Maria, Maud Newton, Michael Surtees, Michael Bierut, Jeffrey Zeldman and many more. Books will also be available for sale. Hope to see you there tonight!

My essay at Coudal is here, but you can also read it below:

Love in the Time of Cholera
by Gabriel García Márquez
Field-Tested in San Felipe de Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

In 1992, both my marriage and the first relationship after my marriage had fallen apart. Certain I was never going to be loved again, I coerced my best friend, Sue, to travel with me to a place as far away as I could afford. A week’s vacation for two proved more expensive than I anticipated, and the best I could provide was an all-inclusive holiday at the Playa Dorado Hotel in San Felipe de Puerto Plata. Located on the north coast of the island of the Dominican Republic, Puerto Plata is both a port city and a popular tourist destination. Known for its stretch of white, sandy beaches, tropical botanical gardens, and a mountaintop backdrop, I hoped a week away from home would begin to heal my broken heart. Sue was interested in scuba diving and water sports, but I preferred to be lazy and lounged on the hot beach sipping sweet, thick, frozen Margarita’s.

I brought along Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera mostly because it is a story of unrequited love, and I wanted to wallow in the marvelous, mystical, dream-reality that is only possible from García Márquez. But as soon as I began my journey through the novel, I was struck by the similarity of the visual landscape. Love in the Time of Cholera takes place in an unnamed port city in the Caribbean. It remains unnamed throughout the story, and as I lay facing the ocean, I imagined García Márquez speaking directly to me through the book.

Headstrong Fermina Daza is the female lead in the story, and after a brief love affair through letters with Florentino Ariza, she ultimately rejects him and marries Juvenal Urbino. Lovesick and forlorn, Ariza is obsessed and tormented by his love for Fermina Daza. “It’s no use,” he tells his uncle at the beginning of the novel. “Love is the only thing that interests me.”

And love he does! Though Florentino Ariza believes that Fermina Daza is his soul mate and vows to remain faithful to her, he proceeds to engage in 662 affairs over the next 50 years. All the while, Ariza sincerely believes that he is saving his heart and his virginity for Fermina Daza. When her husband finally dies, Ariza immediately returns to Fermina and slowly she understands that she has loved him all along. They embark on a voyage to sail the Magdalena River, and in an effort to keep other passengers from boarding the boat, the captain raises the yellow flag of cholera. He asks Ariza, questioning how long they can possibly keep coming and going in this manner. “Forever” is his one word reply.

As I finished the book, I found myself weeping. I wept for the love Ariza felt for Fermina; I wept for the 53 years, seven months, and 11 days and nights it took for them to fulfill their love; and I wept for the joy that I felt in their mutuality. But mostly, I wept because I had witnessed a magnificent love story, and once again, had to face the heartbreak and the sadness that was defining my life.


Blogger The Book Designer said...

What a wonderful story. I can't say that I wept, but in my own little "man" way, I felt deeply for the characters and the unwavering love they held on to for all those years.

I read most of it in Merida and Tulum, Mexico, so the Caribbean vibe was strong and I felt the flavor of the characters in the people I saw around me.

Congratulations on getting your essay in the book. I had just finished reading your interviews in How to Think Like a Great Graphic Design and all I can say is thanks for a great contribution and exciting exploration of great minds.

6/13/2008 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger minus five said...

that's awesome that you're in yet another book. i love the way you tell stories--it doesn't even seem to matter what the subject is about.

6/13/2008 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

Good Luck! I'm sure you will be fabulous as always.

7/28/2008 05:30:00 PM  

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Location: new york city, United States

Debbie Millman has worked in the design business for over 25 years. She is President of the design division at Sterling Brands. She has been there for nearly 15 years and in that time she has worked on the redesign of global brands for Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, Campbell’s, Colgate, Nestle and Hasbro. Prior to Sterling, she was a Senior Vice President at Interbrand and a Marketing Director at Frankfurt Balkind. Debbie is President of the AIGA, the largest professional association for design. She is a contributing editor at Print Magazine, a design writer at and Brand New and Chair of the Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 2005, she began hosting the first weekly radio talk show about design on the Internet. The show is titled “Design Matters with Debbie Millman” and it is now featured on In addition to “Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design,” (HOW Books, 2009, she is the author of "How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer" (Allworth Press, 2007) and “The Essential Principles of Graphic Design” (Rotovision, 2008).

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