PUBLISHING CIRCLES hype “Print on Demand” for craft- and self-publishing as well as for giving new life to out-of-print books. I’m ready to take Print on Demand to the fashion world. Like so many notions, this one was inspired by a dress, specifically, an asymmetrical, crinkled cotton shirtdress, printed with illustrated newspaper stories. (As if this weren’t enough, the dress has a matching pocket/purse sewn on the outside.) Believe it or not, I bought it out of the window of a L’Enfant Plaza Metro station store on my lunch hour—have you ever actually shopped in one of those stores—and I wore it to a New Yorker party.
My style advisors were divided on this one. Half of the women polled recommended leaving it in the closet and wearing a black sheath to the NY party; the other half said my newsprint dress was “certainly original.” I shortened “certainly original” to “original,” and did it up right, which is to say with anklets and pointy black shoes. I knew I’d made the right decision when David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, exclaimed, “Who are you wearing?” and I got to say, “It may be you.” We made our way through a story about space travel before we were interrupted.
I’ve always wanted to be the woman in that dress, and I spent a delightful evening meeting strangers who pushed their way through a crowded party to read my hips. I’d come to the party with a D.C.-based staff writer for the New Yorker, who said she’d never seen that jaded crew make an effort to meet anyone. Her theory was that I’d chosen the perfect conversation piece for their crowd.
The second time I wore the dress was to a PEN/Faulkner Fiction Award dinner at the Folger Theatre, and when I deadpanned to a novelist that I was wearing her book, she believed me for a revealing instant. Her eyes scanned my torso, looking for her words, before she checked her own gullibility. Fortunately, she took my prank in stride and we had a good laugh—it’s ludicrous except who wouldn’t want to believe that?
Which brings me to Print on Demand, where I have fabric printed with pages of novels, maybe your novel or mine, to be fashioned into anything we can think of. Period pieces could be stitched from Anna Karenina ball scenes, artist smocks flowing with passages from To the Lighthouse, pencil skirts bearing Dorothy Parker! Once Print on Demand gets going, you could wrap D. H. Lawrence around your legs, snuggle up with Willa Cather or lay your head upon my chapter. Worn any good books lately?
–Mary Kay Zuravleff
Mary Kay Zuravleff is the author of three novels. Her most recent, Man Alive!, was a Washington Post Notable Book of 2013 and will be out in paperback this fall.