shu and joe

Posts filed under ‘Books’

David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008

September 15, 2008

Saddened to read that David Foster Wallace was found dead on Friday, an apparent suicide. I first encountered his writing during my freshman year at Kenyon and immediately became a dedicated fan. I recall reading his collection of short stories, The Girl With Curious Hair, a minimum of three times that year. It was my first in encounter with a writer who spoke in terms both erudite and accessible, humorous and heartbreaking. Ten years later, Wallace came to Kenyon to deliver a commencement address to the graduating class. A quote from that speech:

Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education—least in my own case—is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me. … I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.
This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.
And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.

One can only assume that it was this tendency to over-intellectualize that led Wallace to end his life. Readers of his work will know that the struggle of daily life, the real, post-ironic business of how to feel worthy and maybe even proud of oneself, has always been present in Wallace’s fiction. In the last section of Girl With Curious Hair, he writes: “To be a subject is to be Alone. Trapped. Kept from yourself. … You can kiss anyone’s spine but your own.” That story ends with three words that Wallace must desperately have wanted to hear: you are loved.

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Rainbows in Curved Air

August 19, 2008

Our little publishing concern, Historical Fiction Press, is now distributing Pash Buzari‘s book Rainbows in Curved Air. The book was printed in 2003 as a component of Buzari’s contribution to the 50th Venice Biennale (Utopia Station). It’s a fascinating collection of images of Buzari’s architecturally concerned work and research, with texts by Philippe Parreno, Doreen Massey and Hans Ulrich Obrist. You can pick up a copy through Amazon.

Oh, and there are a few copies left of our book Dead Animals. Now also available through Amazon.

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Daniel Eatock: Imprint

August 16, 2008

Princeton Architectural Press has just released a monograph of work by British designer Daniel Eatock. Looking forward to this one – I’ve long been a fan of Eatock’s quirky-conceptual approach to design. In addition, each copy of the first edition of Imprint has been inked by Eatock with his own thumbprint.

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Planet Shanghai

May 28, 2008

Justin Guariglia’s new book, Planet Shanghai, follows the topological archive format that has become quite popular with attempts to address visual culture in Asia. He offers dozens of images of bike visors, nylon socks, outdoor pajamas, street vendors, food stalls, owners with their dogs, rubble and high rises. His eye for composition and uniform presentation pull it all together nicely. Lots of images at his site.

Justin Guariglia, from Planet Shanghai, 2008.

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Permanent Resident

May 21, 2008

I’m happy to hear that Christoph Keller‘s KIOSK project, a traveling exhibition of nearly 6,000 publications by about 400 independent publishers, will soon have a permanent home in Berlin! Christoph has been developing and exhibiting the archive internationally for 8 years, but the increasing cost and logistic difficulty of moving around 2.5 tons of books led to the decision to find them a proper home. The Staatliche Museen zu Berlin one of Germany’s leading art book archives has agreed to take on the KIOSK project as a special collection. They will continue to develop the collection until 2010. Following 2010, the archive will stand as a record of global independent publishing from the first decade of the 21st century. I’m happy that Historical Fiction Press and our Dead Animals book will be part of it!

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April 23, 2008

I’m really enjoying Berlin’s Mono-Kultur magazine. The bi-monthly publication features one interview along with related images and a unique format for each release. The current issue is devoted to Miranda July, while the previous one offered a great interview and design concept for Taryn Simon.

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