This quote comes from Rick Atkinson's book, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944. It succinctly captures the sentiments of year that one would prefer to forget than review. It happens. You move on.
One of my holiday traditions like
overeating, amassing credit card debt and deflating inflatable Christmas decorations is to reflect back on what book events I
attended that were the most fun or interesting. I really didn't get
out to many book events
in 2012, but I didn't see many plays, movies
or music concerts either. I did attend a few readings: Isabell
Wilkerson, Charles Seabrook, and Janisee Ray at the Decatur Book
Festival; Kevin Wilson and Robert Craig at the Decatur Public Library
and Rob Walker and Lawrence Millman at Emory University.
Sometimes there is a significant time
lapse between an author event and reading his or her book. For
example, I saw Charles Mann at Emory in 2011 promoting 1493:
Uncovering the World Columbus Launched, and am just now-- over
the holidays – reading one of his book's 1491: New Revelations
of the America's Before Columbus. A fascinating book even though
talking about the diseases that wiped out millions of people in
Western Hemisphere after Columbus arrived doesn't make for the best
yuletide dinner conversation.
In order to supplement my meager book
event attendance his year, I did attend a couple of book art shows:
Brian Dettmer's work (still at MOCA until January 5th),
and the book art exhibit at the Art Insitute of Atlanta-Decatur back
in May. On a lesser artistic scale there was the Georgia Antiquarian
Booksellers Association (GABA) Fine and Collectible Book Fair, which
was held last September in Marietta. Not only did I do some book
shopping there, but I enjoyed chatting with vendors like the folks
at Kouyoumdjian Miniature Books
of Columbia, Indiana, Lee and Bob
Linn of Ridge Books in Calhoun Georgia who shared some their interest
African-American fiction writer Donald Goins (Coincidently, I was reading Charles
Perry's Portrait of a Young Man Drowning at the time), and
Josh Niesse of Underground Books of Carollton, Georgia, who had a
selection of book related novelties. For an hour, it felt great to be
among “my people.” I am a book shopper; they are book shoppers
too even though they pretend to be book sellers.
It is for this reason, I am awarding
the less-than-coveted Book Shopper Best Local Event (That I Attended)
to the 2012 GABA Fine and Collectible Book Fair. GABA joins a
distinguished list that includes Andisheh Nouree (2011) the four
poets Kevin Young, Thomas Lux, David Bottoms, and David Kirby
(2010), the late E. Lynn Harris (2009) and Chandler Burr (2008).
On my lunch hour last week I drove over
to see Brian Dettmer's art exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art
of Georgia in Atlanta. I am always interested in new ways to
re-purpose used books (beyond reading them). I had my first taste of
Dettmer's work at New Worlds to Conquer exhibit at Saltworks Gallery
last year. This new exhibit, which contains fifteen pieces, shares some
of the similarities in the New Worlds pieces in the way Dettmer
carves up older illustrated books to reveal new meanings about the
subject manner and richness that the printed word provides.
What I enjoyed about Dettmer's current
exhibit of works that he completed this year is the variety. Yes, he
has the “standard” carved out illustrated encyclopedias like the
volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica shown here in Tower 1 (shown at the left , but
he also has added some new interpretations. An entire wall is devoted
to Altered States, where
Dettmer has cut up and reassembled 50 pages of the 50 state flags,
framed them, and placed them in the shape of the United States map.
There is also a huge print entitled Chaos where
Dettmer shows how the word, “Chaos” is visually linked to other
words. Then there is Emergency Exit, which
is a fire door made of partially charred paperback books. In One
Word at a Time, (shown at the
top), a series of paperback books are glued together.
I am not even going
to pretend that I can interpret the works as art or adequately
describe them, but I would encourage those of you (and I know you are
out there) that appreciate the possibilities of the printed word to
check out the Dettmer's exhibition, which is at the MOCA between now
and January 5, 2013. The gallery is located in an enclave of antique
stores in the Tula Art Center complex, so you can make an afternoon
of it, instead of just taking a longer lunch hour.
Unlike other “best” book lists, my
criteria for excellence is somewhat different. To make the list
requires a combination of value (how much I paid for the book) and
good reading. Whether the book was published in 2012 is of little
significance to me as I am a person who likes to think of himself as
immune to book hype while preferring to shop for books at used
bookstores, independent book stores, book festivals, church lawn
sales and even online (gasp!). I crave the process. In no particular
order, here’s my list of most notable finds/reads in 2012:
Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing
of My Work (2010) by Douglas Coupland. This is an unconventional
and fascinating biography because Coupland (Generation X;
Microserfs) interjects his own story and cultural critiques while
delving into both McLuhan's brilliance and personal flaws. The
pinnacle of McLuhan's career (besides a cameo appearance in Woody
Allen's Annie Hall) was his 1964 book Understanding Media.
I still pick up
Understanding Media from time to time and am amazed of its relevance. Coupland feels the same way.
I picked my copy
browsing the shelves of Emory University's Carlos Museum Book Shop, which has many
unconventional offerings. At the Carlos, I was also introduced to
John Jeremiah's Sullivan's The Pulphead Essays, an excellent
collection which includes several essays about the South.
Casey Stengel: His Life at Times
(1984) by Robert Creamer. This
sports biography starts out slow in the early innings of Stengel's
life as a ballplayer, but by the late innings when Stengel is the
manager of the powerhouse New York Yankee teams of the 1950s, you can
fully appreciate his contribution to the game of baseball. Included
in the biography are portraits of Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin and Joe
DiMaggio (along with references to such baseball names as Pickles
Dilhoefer, Eppa Jeptha Rixey, and my favorite name -- Bevo
LeBourveau). Stengel was also the first manager of the abysmal and
lovable New York Mets and coined the phrase “Can anyone here play
this game?” which according to Creamer, Stengel actually said, “Can
anyone play this here game?” If you are a fan of baseball history,
check out Creamer's biography of George Hermann Ruth, Babe:The Legend Comes to Life (1992).
picked up my copy off the shelf at Books Again (see sponsor link) for
$7. Another fine book I read this year that revisits baseball's past
is Wilfrid Sheed's memoir, My Life as a Fan
(1993), but you'll probably have to order this online like I did.