What are your favorite books? In conjunction with the Flux Libris artistamp release, Cascadia Artpost presents a set of twelve artistamps representing more favorite books discovered over the past several years. Despite the advent of new electronic media, we think books will remain a significant medium of human communication.
Here are brief descriptions of the twelve favorite books, in order from left to right on the artistamp sheet:
Books, Boxes & Wraps by Marilyn Webberley and JoAn Forsyth (1998) is a handy and comprehensive resource of book arts skills and projects that we discovered in a book binding class last fall. With many hand-drawn illustrations, this book covers book binding tools, leaves and scrolls, accordion bindings, sewn bindings, single signature bindings, multiple signature bindings, folders and wraps, and how to make boxes and cases.
The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk (2010) is a novel of romance set in the author's Istanbul, Turkey. Kemal, the main protagonist and narrator, is engaged to be married to Sibel, but when he meets Füsun, a beautiful shopgirl and distant relation, he becomes enthralled. Over the next eight years, he becomes a compulsive collector of objects that chronicle his relationship with Füsun, a museum that maps both society and his heart. The author even appears as a character in his own novel (page 124)!
The Map as Art, Contemporary Arts Explore Cartography by Katherine Harmon (2009), is a beautifully illustrated collection over over 350 map-related artistic visions that are as much explorations of the interior mind as they are of exterior landscapes. In-depth essays explore the works of Joyce Kozloff, Landon Mackenzie, Ingrid Calame, Guillermo Kuitca, and Maya Lin.
Railroaded, The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America by the Stanford University history professor Richard White (2011), presents a new interpretation of the impacts of the transcontinental railroads as the first corporate behemoths in the United States. White dissects industrialization in the so-called Gilded Age, the financial schemes that supported the expansion of rail, early organized labor movements of the American working class, and how the capitalist moguls in the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century initiated new forms of corruption on Wall Street and among politicians national and local to get their way. White makes unsettling comparisons with the troubles brought on by the financial sector in our own time.
The Lomholt Mail Art Archive edited by by Niels Peter Lomholt and Lene Aagaard Denhart (2011) is a large (640 pages) volume filled with color illustrations from Niels Momholt's extensive collection of works, letters, and personal encounters with mail artists from Al Ackerman to David Zack in 1971-85, works by the Lomholt Formular Press between 1975 and 1985, and documentation of Lomholt's video work between 1971 and 2006.
A Question of Values by cultural historian Morris Berman (2010) presents wide-ranging essays previously unpublished in the United States on American culture and politics, the human existential condition, and the notion of progress. Berman challenges readers to rethink the accepted mainstream of values and the American culture of material consumption, and argues that current problems are as much ethical as political. The essays are organized in four parts: Lament for America, Mind and Body, Progress True and False, and Quo Vadis. Their wide range is revealed by the titles, such as "To See Ourselves as We Are Seen," "The Black Hole of Bethesda," "Ways of Knowing," "The Hula Hoop Theory of History," "Tribal Consciousness and Enlightenment Tradition." Most of the essays were originally published in Spanish. Berman currently lives in Mexico.
Why America Failed, also by Morris Berman (2012), is intended as a post-mortem examination of the U.S. in decline as a world empire. Berman examines American culture from the time of the first English colonies to the present, and makes the case that the elements of the American "hustler" culture were present from the very beginning, guiding American expansion as a continental and then global empire and now American decline. He asserts that hustling, materialism, and the pursuit of individual gain without regard for impacts on others have been powerful forces that have overwhelming contravailing visions.
The Dictionary of Imaginary Places by Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi (2000) catalogs the imaginary places invented by literature. Like a literary travel guide, this book is a pleasure to browse, its descriptions enhanced by abundant illustrations of maps, structures, artifacts and other details of imaginary geography.
Good Mail Day, A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art, by Jennie Hinchcliff and Carolee Gilligan Wheeler (2009), is a colorfully illustrated guide to making mail art. Good Mail Day covers mail art etiquette, assembling a mail art kit for travel, how to make and illustrate envelopes, designing and reproducing artistamps, penmanship, finding correspondents with whom to exchange in the mail, developing one's "postal personality," and starting mail art projects. Included in the book are a list of resources, stickers, post cards, and an envelope template. This is a great resource and collection of ideas for those new to mail art as well as the seasoned mail art collaborator.
A Paradise Built in Hell, the Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, by Rebecca Solnit (2009), recounts examples of altruism, resourcefulness, generosity, and community-building that arise in the aftermath of disasters. Solnit is one of our favorite writers who consistently presents a vision of life that is less authoritarian and fearful, and more hopeful, collaborative, and local.
Every War Has Two Losers by the late Cascadian poet William Stafford (2003) is a less well known collection of daily writings from journals, essays, and poems on peace and war. A conscientious objector during World War II, Stafford believed that there were more options than simply fighting or running away. This volume is timeless in its relevance.
Fuel, Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye (1998), is one of the fine collections of poetry by this Palestinian American poet. Here is an example:
I Still Have Everything You Gave Me
It is dusty on the edges.
I guard it without thinking.
Focus on it once a year
when I shake it out in the wind.
I do not ache.
I would not trade.