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Friday, Dec 18, 2009
The Map As Art - Princeton Architectural Press [$45.00] and Strange Maps - Penguin [$30]

Who hasn’t pored over a map, totally absorbed, oblivious to the passage of time? You are Here, for the time being, and ‘Here’ is you, in all the cultural, political, and geographical interpretations of that phrase you care to consider. If you’re inclined to such daydreaming, The Map as Art will intrigue, delight and perplex you, as you browse through 160 contemporary artists’ interpretations of mapping the world.


Your understanding of what comprises a map will get a luxurious stretch, as you slowly page through this delightful book (a sequel to the best selling You are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination, also by Katharine Harmon), and thus your comprehension of the world will expand. Many of the maps, like us, are designed to fade quickly on this geographical timeline (the wind will take them away); others, no matter how well preserved, will disintegrate more slowly as all objects of art do. Nothing remains fixed, not ourselves, and certainly not our world. You’ll want to find some of these in poster format, if possible, as many of these maps are quite beautiful.


An excellent companion piece to The Map as Art is found in Viking Studio’s Strange Maps. Here the map as concept is turned on its head, or inverted, as the cover art implies.  For example in section III. Artography, artist Frank Chimero depicts the state of California as a stubbed-out cigarette—and that’s one of the more readily comprehensible maps. “In cartography, precision is essential.  But imagination can be an entertaining substitute,” says the introduction to part I. Cartographic Misconceptions, which playfully depicts maps of, well, creative assumption, which were typical resources prior to the age of satellite imagery.


Author Frank Jacobs calls this collection, derived from his popular blog, Strange Maps, an anti-atlas in its scope of curious cartography that—consider yourself warned—is not meant for navigation. Well, not physical navigation, anyway. Your imagination will wander freely throughout these interpretations. This is a collection of odd maps that are, well, kinda hard to pin down. Readers of this book will wear a bemused smile throughout—and they’ll never look at the state of California the same.


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Thursday, Dec 17, 2009
Gig Posters - Clay Hayes - Quirk Books [$40.00]

Clay Hayes’ book is a collection of some of the finest posters from his website, Gigposters.com, an online community of designers and fans showcasing the incredible poster work being done around the world. Letterpress, screen printing, digital, and mash-ups of all forms do more than just advertise, they become art. The whole point is to grab someone’s attention. Hayes’ book is a design feat in itself. Each page is perforated and meant to detach, giving readers 101 mini-prints, making this a book one can literally deconstruct. This feature harkens back to the built-in disposability of posters which one hung on telephone poles, bar windows, or community bulletins boards. Gig posters are meant to be cherished. They’re the last great rock ‘n’ roll commodity, merchandise elevated above the commercial and into the artistic by the artists featured here and the others like them. Actually, they’ve always been art, and it’s the quality of the work, in everything from basic design down to the minute details, that makes these posters so amazing. And this book an amazing gift for any art or rock lover. And honestly, who doesn’t fall into at least one of those categories?


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Wednesday, Dec 16, 2009
Celebrating Peanuts: 60 Years - Charles Schulz [$75.00]

There have been several books about Schulz and Peanuts (as opposed to collections of the strips) over the years, early examples being 1965’s Gospel According to Peanuts, and 1975’s Peanuts Jubilee. Published a year before Shultz’s death, 1999’s A Golden Celebration featured running commentary by the master himself. With its similarly large format, decade-oriented organization sprinkled with trivia, that book could have been an inspiration for the newest addition to the canon of Peanuts appreciation: Celebrating Peanuts.


What can any new book bring to this already crowded subject? Surprisingly, a nostalgic sense of joy. This book wants the work taken seriously, focusing on two key aspects: Schulz as hard-working artist, and Peanuts as pop culture phenomenon.


It’s a single volume in a large hardcover format, accompanied by a slipcase. It doesn’t offer all of the comics, but it offers a heck of a lot. Celebrating Peanuts seems aimed at fans (at all levels of fanaticism) who want comprehensive and colorful overview of the entire run of Peanuts in a single volume.


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Wednesday, Dec 16, 2009
Grateful Dead Scrapbook - Edited by Ben Fong-Torres - Chronicle [$40.00]

In the summer of 2001, I went to MusicFest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where I saw Dark Star Ochestra perform (an authorized Grateful Dead tribute band). There I met my first Dead Head. He was a hippie with long, long hair, a scraggly beard and of course, he was smoking a joint. Watching him and his lady twirl around to the sounds of the Dead made me realize the difference between being a fan and being a fanatic. The Grateful Dead Scrapbook is a great gift for the Dead Head, the converted corporate hippie or Earth Mother (the fanatics). With pictures and interviews, this compilation takes the reader back to the time when the Dead were alive. But it also delivers just the right amount of nostalgia and obscurity to appeal to the granola-types that follow Phish around, save up for Burning Man, and spend their spare time at the disc-golfing course (the fans).


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Tuesday, Dec 15, 2009
The Wind and the Willows - Kenneth Grahame - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press [$35.00]

This annotated version of the children’s classic holds a college course’s worth of information between its covers. Giving the gift of Toad’s adventures with Rat and Mole will always be, and always has been, an appreciated gift. This edition, however, takes the reader deeper into the world of The Wind in the Willows with relevant annotations and cultural contexts. This book deserves a spot on the bookshelf to be enjoyed by the old and young alike. Revisited, or newly discovered, Kenneth Grahame continues to inspire imaginations.


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