my3books: Taking a peek at Tattooed Ladies, Yarn Bombing and, yes, Lebowski Studies

What's the connection? I initially envisioned this post as a kind of highbrow-to-lowbrow pop culture arc, but the lizard brain obviously took over as I was scanning the catalogs for today's picks.

This spring, I've been talking with other bookselling folks about how we know when a book is just going to work. When we talk about this part of the business - the book spotting game - it feels less like a science and more like the idea behind IndieBound's predecessor, "Book Sense", which from the beginning was meant to echo Spider-Man's Spidey Sense.

From my perspective, a perfect example was the gut reaction I had at the Chronicle Books sales conference last winter when we got to the Quirk Books catalog page for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The title, the cover, and the sample page from the book had me at hello, and I knew it was going to be a fun, fun book to sell. My Spidey Sense was tingling. (BTW, was that the first tweet on PPZ? It's hard to say for sure, because deep Twitter Search really sucks.)

And my point would be ... that the books featured for your consideration in today's post all got my bookish Spidey Sense tingling at various points during our sales conference meetings this spring.

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The Tattooed Lady: A History
by Amelia Klem Osterud
Speck Press / Fulcrum Publishing (Consortium) | 9781933108261 | $27 | Nov 2009

Amelia Klem Osterud is an academic librarian in Wisconsin who is not entirely tattoo-free. She's been researching this topic since 2002 and in that time has accumulated a wealth of documentary evidence into the history of Tattooed Ladies - women who lived at a time in our history when it was NOT the usual practice to parade their nearly naked bodies on carnival stages, spinning tales about savages and lives of captivity and forced tattooing. Yet, this was exactly what they did.

The Tattooed Lady unearths the true stories of these fascinating and courageous women, the trailblazers that opened the door for today's unfortunate college girl ritual scarification (that link could be NSFW).

Combining thorough research with more than a hundred historical photos, this social history explores tattoo origins, women's history, and circus lore. What's not to like?

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Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti
by Mandy Moore & Leanne Prain
Arsenal Pulp Press (Consortium) | 9781551522555 | $19.95 | Sept 2009

Maybe you've seen a bus stop bench, telephone pole, or a stop sign in your neighborhood inexplicably covered in lovely knitted yarn? Or you've seen the YouTube video of artist Robyn Love putting the final touches on her 2008 NYC project Water Tower Cozy? You've been Yarnbombed.

The book Yarn Bombing (coming from funky Canadian publisher Arsenal Pulp) has been put together by the two authors of the Yarnbombing blog, a compilation of their work documenting the global spread of knit (and crochet) graffiti. The full-color book will be both guidebook to "covert textile street art" and a DIY guide to putting on your own stealth installations - 20 patterns to work from, information on how to organize large scale textile projects, and guidance on designing your own knitted graffiti tags.

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The Year's Work in Lebowski Studies (IndieBound link not live yet, but here's IU Press' page)
By Edward P. Comentale & Aaron Jaffe
Indiana University Press | 9780253221360 | $24.95 | Nov 2009

I've sold a lot of scholarly and semi-scholarly books over the years that attempt to attach themselves to some aspect of the pop culture zeitgeist and explain it all for you.

Open Court's was the original: the Pop Culture And Philosophy series has 41 books and counting since 2000 - way to go! But wait! There was an editorial schism and now there's a competing Philosophy And Pop Culture series at Wiley Blackwell, too, with 16 titles! Oh, and now, the University Press of Kentucky is also running a series of the Philosophy of Popular Culture, and they've got 11 titles already. To my mind this proves just one thing: there are a LOT of underutilized philsophy professors out there who are willing to write short pieces for cheap.

So there's all this competition out there, and now along comes a new book, an outlier, with the conceit that this is the first in a series of journals compiling the best work over the past year in Lebowski Studies. You know - the Dude. The Big Lebowski.

That's funny to me - it's not a big stretch to believe that an entire subset of academia has sprung up studying the minutiae of this epic film from the Coen Brothers.

After all, Lebowski Fest started humble and is now active in 15 cities each year. They typically meet in a bowling alley, of course. And if religion is your thing, you can get ordained as a Dudeist Preist in the Church of the Latter-day Dude (their motto: "Just take it easy, man.")

And we've already seen that there is literally an army of philosophy profs waiting in the wings to exegete, dissect, explicate, and defuse the controversial elements of any pop culture moment.

So how does this one stack up? It's looking pretty good, frankly. As evidence, I present a selection of the entries from the Table of Contents:

  • A Once and Future Dude: The Big Lebowski as Medieval Grail-Quest by Andrew Rabin
  • "F*** It, Let's Go Bowling": The Cultural Connotations of Bowling in The Big Lebowski by Bradley D. Clissold
  • LebowskIcons: The Rug, The Irong Lung, The Tiki Bar, and Busby Berkeley by Dennis Hall and Susan Grove Hall
  • Professor Dude: An Inquiry into the Appeal of His Dudeness for Contemporary College Students by Richard Gaughran

Clearly, these guys are fans of the movie as well as academics! If you want a sneak peek at the process behind the making of the book, check out this episode of the Lebowski Podcast that featured the editors.

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>> Consortium Book Sales & Distribution distributes the books that Speck Press/Fulcrum Publishing and Arsenal Pulp Press publish to bookstores around the US. You can download their Fall 2009 catalogs here. Follow them on Twitter and befriend them on Facebook.

>> Speck Press is an imprint of Fulcrum Publishing. You can follow them on Twitter. Just don't talk about them behind their backs!

>> Arsenal Pulp Press is to be found here, twitters here, and blogs as well.

>> Indiana University Press is all over the web: blog - catalog downloads - facebook - twitter.

DISCLAIMER: This particular entry features books that are brought into the world by publisher(s) that I represent. But you knew that, right? The whole point of this blog IS to talk about books you should be buying or reading, so just take it as a given that in the back of my mind, it has been my secret plan all along to make you want to buy these books. Preferably from an independent bookseller.