OK, having got that little throat-clearing end-of-summer group hug out of the way, I'm free to talk about three of the cool books that recently arrived here at my3books HQ.
I'd like to use the traditional phraseology "landed on my desk", but to be honest, so many books and catalogs and packages come and go here that nothing really lands on my desk. Also, when you say "landed on my desk", that more or less implies the presence of mailroom staff or interns or something like that. And I'm usually the only one who opens up the jiffy mailers and book cartons.
Nevertheless, you must check out these three beautiful books. I can't think of a single good phrase to refer to them in the aggregate but at least one of them is perfect for the traditional "gift book" section in your typical indie bookstore. One of them is simply a graphic novel from one of my favorite artists. And one of them is a book that I would say is a no-brainer for any customer or loved one who is hoping to become a visual artist one day.
Pictorial Webster's: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities
by John Carrera
Chronicle Books | 9780811867184 | $35 | Sept 2009
A visual delight, a word-lover's coffee table book, a fascinating historical document - Pictorial Webster's is all of these things. John Carrera stumbled across an ancient and battered 1898 Webster's International Dictionary at his grandmother's house in 1995. He was struck by the quality of the illustrated section: 80 pages of engravings in a variety of styles.
He embarked on a 10-year-long quest to find more examples, track down the original engravings and restore these beautiful images to print. He ultimately located the original engravings at Yale University, organized their holdings, and then put together a collection that spanned the different editions across the decades.
Carrera published the extremely limited letterpress edition through his own fine press company, Quercus Press. The Fine Press Book Association recently featured a video by Carerra that walks viewers through the steps that were required to create his book. Chronicle Books has finally brought out the trade edition. They're also hosting a drawing - one lucky individual is going to win a copy of the Quercus Press edition. Chronicle is also hosting another drawing with IndieBound: five winners will win beautiful framed posters of Pictorial Webster's art.
Fantagraphics Books (W.W. Norton) | 9781606991558 | $24.99 | June 2009
When I started repping for W.W. Norton, one of the special treats awaiting me as a longtime fan of graphic novels was the Fantagraphics list. I've always been a fan of their particularly lovely bookmaking and their wide-ranging participation in both the history of the field as well as the future of comics. To be dropped in amongst their riches was like Dorothy stepping out of her ruined farmhouse into technicolor Oz.
Consider this short list: The complete Peanuts. Daniel Clowes' Ghost World. Love and Rockets. Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library. Complete Crumb Comics. Bill Griffith's Zippy. Tony Millionaire's Maakies. Jules Feiffer. Krazy & Ignatz. I could easily fill this blog with nothing but Fantagraphics books, if I wanted.
But my most exciting discovery of all has been Jason. The mono-named Norwegian artist has been a prolific creator and a recent star of Fantagraphics' list. His "clear line" style is immediately appealing and understandable to readers, and gives those readers what I think of as a head start - your focus and attention can be spent in finding the emotion and the subtext that runs below the surface narrative.
Some of my favorite backlist titles by Jason include I Killed Adolf Hitler (a time-traveling assassin is sent back to 1939 to do in the Nazi dictator, though the mission does not go as planned), and Pocket Full of Rain (a collection of 25 works from Jason's first 10 years as an artist).
He was one of the contributors to the Funny Pages serials in the New York Times Magazine, creating in the title piece from my featured book, Low Moon, an Old West homage that somehow combined gunfights, thwarted romance and chess. Fantagraphics' Web site features a short video peek at Low Moon.
Inside the Painter's Studio
by Joe Fig
Princeton Architectural Press (Chronicle Books) | 9781568988528 | $35 | Paper | Sept 2009
This book began in 2000 when artist Joe Fig began a series of miniature sculptures of historically significant artists in their studios (see the Jackson Pollock sculpture, right). After two years of working from memoirs and paintings and other source materials, he moved on to a related study of contemporary artists. As he says in his preface, "my intention was to get a clearer understanding of the real, day-to-day practicalities of being an artist..."
The resulting book combines all of the elements of Joe Fig's work and his behind-the-scenes research: an interview with each artist (which Fig quickly standardized as The Painter's Studio: An Artist's Questionnaire, seeming to riff on the Proust Questionnaire...), site photographs of each artist's studio space, their painting table, and works in progress, and photographs of the resulting miniature sculpture of the artist's studio by Fig. In the end, what the curious reader holds in their hand in a guided tour through How Artists Work, told by an insider. It's truly fascinating.