2BR02B, by Kurt Vonnegut, Sharp Teeth Press (2014)

Readers of Books and Vines were introduced to David Johnston’s Sharp Teeth Press in January 2014 with a review of their excellent edition of Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau. Among other wonderful things about the edition was its very reasonable price for a hand-done work. Now Sharp Teeth Press has outdone themselves, releasing an even more affordable fine press edition, this time an excellent modern short story by Kurt Vonnegut called 2BR02B.

Like their edition of Civil Disobedience2BR02B was produced by hand through the entire process, from casting lead type to hand binding (all done in-house at the Sharp Teeth Press studio in Oakland, California). Illustrations, printed by photopolymer plates, were done by California artist Jesse Balmer. The German paper, called Schiller, has excellent texture (see the macros below) and provides a nice canvas for the 12 point DeVinne type and the illustrations (which as in purple). There are colorful green/yellow end sheets of French pop tone, and the book is handbound with a cover material called Skivertex, with the case being made from peach flex. The foil design on the cover (the logo of the ‘Federal Bureau of Termination’) was stamped on the “new” kensol foil stamper Sharp Teeth Press now owns. All of this for $55! At this price, and considering the limitation is 80 copies, one should move quick! As an aside, you can watch a video of the book being bound here.

2BR02B, pronouncedto be or not to be was originally published in ‘Worlds of If‘, January 1962. This is a dystopian short story where aging has been cured, there is peace, no poverty and food for all. Such has been accomplished by dramatically lowering the population of the world (the population of the United States is limited to 40 million) though government-assisted suicide, infanticide, etc. In order for someone to be born, someone else has to die.  Since death only happens by accidents or suicide, very few births are allowed and people have to find death ‘volunteers’ in order for their baby to be born. The title is the  telephone number one dials to schedule an assisted suicide with the Federal Bureau of Termination.

In the story, a  man’s wife is about to give birth to triplets, though he only has one volunteer who has volunteered to die. He is in despair. The hospital’s chief obstetrician tries to console him by telling him the one child that will be allowed to live will “live on a happy, roomy, clean, rich planet.” The man ends up shooting and killing the obstetrician, a person from the Federal Bureau of Termination and himself, thereby making room for all three to be born without his grandfather having to die. An artist who witnessed the shootings contemplates “the mournful puzzle of life demanding to be born and, once born, demanding to be fruitful…to multiply and to live as long as possible–to do all that on a very small planet that would have to last forever.” He calls 2BR02B and schedules his own death. He is told “Your city thanks you; your country thanks you; your planet thanks you. But the deepest thanks of all is from future generations.

As I had mentioned in my earlier article on Sharp Teeth Press, they plan to publish mostly nonfiction, first edition texts. Towards this end, and later this year, Sharp Teeth Press will be publishing a fishing book with San Francisco writer and fisherman Kirk Lombard, who’s recounting his story of learning to catch the monkeyface eel on the San Francisco coast.

About the Edition

  • Cast, printed and hand-bound by Sharp Teeth Press
  • Illustrations by Jesse Balmer
  • Illustrations are printed by photopolymer plates
  • The paper is Schiller (Germany)
  • Type is 12 pt DeVinne, printed letterpress
  • End sheets are French poptone
  • Handbound with a cover material called Skivertex, and the case is made from peach flex
  • Printed four up on a Vandercook 32-28
  • All production was in-house in Oakland, including the foil on the cover, which was the first thing stamped on their “new” kensol foil stamper
  • ~ 20 pages
  • Edition limited to 80 copies

Pictures of the Edition (All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided, under fair use, to highlight and visualize the review/criticism of the work being reviewed. A side benefit, hopefully, is providing education on the historical and cultural benefits of having a healthy fine press industry and in educating people on the richness that this ‘old school approach’ of book publishing brings to the reading process. Books and Vines has no commercial stake or financial interest in any publisher, retailer or work reviewed on this site and receives no commercial interest or compensation for Books and Vines. Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s or material found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Cover
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Cover (poor lighting on my part, the book has a consistent dark blue color)
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Macro of Cover
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Macro of Cover
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Macro of Side View
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Macro of Side View
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Title Page
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Title Page
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Macro of Title Page
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Macro of Title Page
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Sample Text
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Sample Text
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Macro of Sample Text
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Macro of Sample Text
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Sample Illustration #1 with text
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Sample Illustration #1 with text
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Sample Illustration #2 with text
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Sample Illustration #2 with text
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Sample Illustration #3
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Sample Illustration #3
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Sample Illustration #4 with text
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Sample Illustration #4 with text
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Macro of Sample Illustration #4
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Macro of Sample Illustration #4
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Sample Illustration #5 with text
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Sample Illustration #5 with text
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Colophon
2BR02B, Sharp Teeth Press, Colophon

4 thoughts on “2BR02B, by Kurt Vonnegut, Sharp Teeth Press (2014)

  1. Wonderful, thanks for the heads-up! I really liked “Civil Disobedience” (though I wasn’t wild about the very thick and stiff Zerkall he chose to print on), and this even more affordable production looks even more nicely designed and executed. I look forward to receiving my copy.

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