Brouhaha at the Buffet (Bookman)

Font of the day: Bookman

Created: 1858, restyled 1901

Personal experience: About a month, fall ’93, on a 152K Mac. Computer upgrade, ’93 Mac, didn’t have Bookman, and I found the closest thing, Palatino.

Chapter: “Brouhaha at the Buffet”

Book: 10th book in my Max’s House series (most of the earlier volumes are in desperate need of retitling)

Written: 15-25 April 2001

Computer created on: 1993 Mac

File format: MacWriteII

This is the fifth chapter of the 10th Max’s House book, written during my junior year of university. My Max’s House books have always been probably my favorite things to write, since they’re so fun, lightweight, short, and easy. My Atlantic City books aren’t meant as straight historical, but rather a mix of historical, spoof, satire, and humor. A lot of the events aren’t meant to be realistic or serious, but just funny.

It’s December 1943, and the Greens (along with the latest British refugee children they’re hosting) and the Sewards have gone to a new buffet. Kit’s mother, the insufferable Mrs. Green, recently was sent to the funny farm by Mr. Green after her behavior just started getting too out of control. But everyone is in for a surprise tonight, since Mrs. Green has gotten out early. Not only that, but an obnoxious, obese new girl from school is there with her own family. And then Mrs. Seward, Mr. Seward’s estranged ex-wife, shows up as well. Everything that could go wrong, does go hilariously wrong tonight.

Among the highlights (warning: contains anti-fat humor, bathroom topics, and some swearing, if that sort of thing offends you):

“I saw a woman even fatter than I am when I was getting my second helping,” Bethany shrugged, guzzling a glass of root beer that was twice the size of the drinking glasses her parents and five little brothers were drinking out of.

Kit calmly spooned her excess pasta salad back into the place where it had come from, not even caring that a few people saw and gasped.

“Ooh, I drizzled out a bit too much ketchup too.” Kit took her fork and spoon and transported the excess ketchup into a bottle sitting nearby.

Kit threw a huge leg of fried chicken onto her plate and began walking back to the table when suddenly she had her plate knocked from out of her hands and onto the floor, where it shattered.  A huge fat woman laughing in an annoying voice was the culprit. [This was based on something that happened to my little brother at a buffet!]

Conny gasped. “Mother, what’s gotten into you?  You can’t stop saying the f word all of a sudden!  You never said it before!”

“Oh, Daddy, Woman just behaved totally unlike a proper Green woman ought to!” Kit tattled. “She was taking a shit in this here public lavatory!”

In disgust, Mrs. Seward stormed towards the doors and nearly got stuck as she was leaving.  Several grunt workers had to push her fat body out through the remainder of the door.

“Sauly, you are only eleven fucking years old!  Where in the fuck do you get off using such horrendous language?” [Spoken by his own mother!]

Mr. Green was just mortified at what his wife was doing in public.  He should have just signed her over to spend the rest of her life in the funny farm while he could get on with his own life and not have to put up with her hysterics.

“Is that the one who belongs in an institution?” Mr. Seward demanded as he pinned Gene against the counter of the dessert bar and gave him a spanking with a nearby hot fudge ladle.

Dennis gave Mr. Seward the finger and kicked him. “At least our father doesn’t treat Clive like a freak ‘cause he can’t see or hear.  You have your perfectly healthy little boy on a leash like he’s a dog!”

“I hope you don’t intend to have no ice-cream,” Saul sniffed, sidling up to Mrs. Green. “You know that on an empty stomach, ice-cream can slide right through from your mouth to your ass in the form of runny diarrhea very quickly.”

“These things happen!” Mrs. Green screamed, calling even more attention to herself. “People sometimes get uncontrollable urges to vomit or do what I did or wet their pants or in Kit’s case screw someone—”

Mr. Seward looked up and saw Gene dumping one of his halfsisters into the nearly-empty metal canister of peppermint stick ice-cream and saw purple. “Eugene, it’s time I hogtie you!”

Mrs. Green, fuming, got up from the table and went back off to the bathroom.  Everyone began pointing and staring again.  There was even a mass exodus from the ladies’ room as soon as she appeared at the door.

Picking a personalized font

One of my surprises after belatedly resuming my long-deferred dream of being a published writer was how many writers these days don’t have any special font. The idea of typing in some generic, personality-less font like Times New Roman, Courier, or Arial just because someone I don’t know said so is so puzzling to me.

First, I’ve come across a number of agent blogs/websites saying that all they care about is that the font is legible and professional, not that it’s one particular font. Second, I wouldn’t prefer to submit to anyone who demanded a font I absolutely loathe and despise. Why is there a plethora of fonts on a computer if there’s this supposed standard everyone is supposed to be using no matter what?

In 1993, early in my 8th grade year, I got the late Olga Litowinsky’s Writing and Publishing Books for Children in the 1990s at a school bookfair. One of her pieces of advice was to use a typewriter-looking font if you’re writing on a computer. Now, I’m old enough to have used a typewriter more than a few times, in spite of having had a computer in the house since ’84. And I knew that the default Helvetica I’d always used did not look like typewriter font. So I looked through the other fonts, and thought Bookman looked closest to typewriter font.

When our dear ’84 Mac short-circuited and I had to wait my turn to use the new ’93 Mac, I discovered Bookman wasn’t a choice. Palatino was the closest I could find, and so for 19 years now, I’ve been typing exclusively in Palatino. It fits me like a glove. To open up a blank document and type in anything else would feel like cheating. Not only that, but when I look at other fonts, as pretty as I might find them, none of them feels quite right. Only Palatino gives me that feeling of comfort, security, and perfection.

However, there are other serif fonts I like looking at, fonts that are professional and attractive. They might not be my perfect match, but they could be the perfect match for another writer, just as Palatino is my font soulmate. Other attractive serif fonts include:

Baskerville (including Baskerville Old Face)
Big Caslon
Book Antiqua (which is almost identical to Palatino)
Calisto MT
Footlight MT Light
Garamond (the default font of this blog’s template)
Imprint MT Shadow
The Lucida family of fonts
Modern No. 20
Plantagenet Cherokee

But after all these years, I’ve come to be not so anti-Helvetica anymore. I never particularly liked it way back when (esp. because it seemed unnatural for its capital I to have no bars on it), but I have to admit that it does have a personality and a rather distinctive, modern look. If you really want to type in a sans-serif font, that’s a really good font to choose.

For fancy things like title pages or something like a wedding invitation, I use Edwardian Script. My computer doesn’t have a huge cornucopia of script fonts, but of the few it does have, that one caught my eye immediately. Since it’s so small even in 12-point, however, I’ve found I have to make it a bit bigger so it looks more legible on the page. I’ve since discovered Chopin Script, which I like even more, but it’s not one of the fonts packaged in my computer.

And if you’re really interested in typewriter-looking fonts, there are a bunch you can download here. My favorites are Cassandre Graphika and Reiner Graphika. When it comes to typewriter-esque fonts already available on the Mac, I like American Typewriter.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should never type your book in a font like Comic Sans, Jazz LET, Wide Latin, or any of the fancy handwriting/script fonts!


One of the (by now rather dated) pieces of advice in Olga Litowinsky’s Writing and Publishing for Children in the 1990s was to use a font that looks like it came from a typewriter, if you’re using a computer, since many editors and publishers are used to dealing with typewritten manuscripts. I’ll admit that I’m old enough to have used a typewriter more than a few times (though it seemed a bit archaic since I literally can’t remember a time before computers, having begun to permanently remember in 1983 and having had at least one computer in the house ever since), but how many people under the age of, say, fifty were still using typewriters instead of computers at the time that book was published in the early Nineties?

So when I started working on my lost first draft of the book I just completed in February, I decided that Bookman looked like a good of a font as any. I thought it looked closest to what I was familiar with from a typewriter. When that old ’83 Mac had a short-circuit on the monitor only a few months into having it in my room, in the fall of ’93, I had to move to working on the new ’93 Mac in my parents’ room. Lo and behold, they didn’t have Bookman on the new Mac’s version of MacWriteII (which still remains my favorite word-processing program, since it was so easy to understand everything, in spite of how it’s considered extremely obsolete now), so I settled for what looked like the second-closest, Palatino. That was also the font I changed my Russian novel into, after having had it in the default font of Helvetica (which I think is rather ugly, not least because it doesn’t even have bars on the top and bottom of its capital Is). And that’s what I’ve been using to type ever since, unless I’m using a fancy font for something special like a title page.

I’m glad to know that it’s considered outdated advice by many people nowadays to submit manuscripts in the butt-ugly Courier, which looks so machine-generated and devoid of personality. Many people recommend Arial, which I also think looks kinda devoid of life and substance. Times (NOT Times New Roman, mind you) I can sorta get behind, since I got very used to it from it being the default font in Quark on our computers at work (I work at a newspaper), but it still doesn’t have that special something that Palatino does. Palatino just has a home-like quality to it, a familiarity after about seventeen and a half years of typing in it almost exclusively, a special personality that you can’t get from an overused, computer-generated-looking, or default font like Helvetica, Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier. Personally, I think Courier is the ugliest font I’ve ever seen.

I love Palatino so much that if I were ever to get a tattoo, it would be a typographical tattoo and in Palatino. (Not that I think I ever will, since the traditional halachic prohibition against tattoos is so strong, even knowing that many modern non-Orthodox commentators have reinterpreted that passage to mean gashing or scarring oneself for the dead, not getting a modern-day tattoo.)  And even though I only chose it originally because it seemed to resemble Bookman and because I thought it was best to use a font that looked typewriter-generated, I just fell in love with it over the years. It’s sort of like my pen name, initially just a random thing but then turning, over time, into something that just fit me perfectly and seemed just right. Once you’ve been working with a font for so many years, no other font seems quite right.