Jon Hill | Arnolfini Bookshop Manager
Capital (2015), Verso Books
This book was given to me by a friend in the book trade, as he knew that I loved New York. It’s both a brilliant and ridiculous homage to the city by Artist and Poet Kenneth Goldman and at almost 1000 pages it has the appearance of a huge gold bar. A poetic history of the city comprised entirely of quotations, the book is divided into chapters that cover locations and themes such as Central Park, Harlem, Sex, Mapplethorpe, Drugs and Gentrification. It’s a fascinating book to dip into or to get completely lost in, with some entries reading like poetry and others feeling like snippets of overheard conversation and chance encounters on the street; opening the book can feel like stepping into New York and sampling the atmosphere for a few minutes. This aspect of Capital is intended as a tribute Arcades, Walter Benjamin’s unfinished writings and reflections on 19th Century Paris, and Goldsmith has said that he intended to take Benjamin “Off the pedestal and onto the Coffee table”.
Building Stories (2012), Jonathan Cape
When I first picked up Chris Ware’s earlier book Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth it was for the incredibly detailed and precise illustrations and I’m embarrassed to say it was a long time before I got round to reading it properly. This was a huge mistake as his writing is equally brilliant and I’d highly recommend trying one of his books, especially if you’re curious about comics.
Building Stories is such an amazing and substantial object, comprised of numerous books, pamphlets, and newspapers of varying sizes, all housed in a huge board game style box. Opening it for the first time feels both exciting and overwhelming, as there is no guide on which order to read it. Gradually the books combine to depict the inhabitants of a Chicago apartment block in intimate detail and one of the things I like best about Chris Ware’s writing is the range of characters he depicts. From the elderly lady who owns the building to the young family upstairs, everyone feels incredibly real and it’s almost as if you are spying on them through the windows!
Esopus Magazine: (2003 – 2018)
The Esopus Foundation
This one is a much-missed Bookshop favourite and hopefully it will return as a print publication one day. Far too lavish to be called a magazine, each issue of Esopus was a fascinating object featuring fold-outs, pamphlets, and other a paper ephemera and also included a themed CD of invited musicians. Featuring contemporary projects by both established and emerging artists and drawing on connections with MoMA and New York Public Library to present incredible archive and facsimile materials, it always felt like you were holding something really special in your hands. The 10th anniversary special on archives is particularly worth seeking out as it takes the form of an archival folder of tabbed files and documents that cover everything from Margaret Thatcher ephemera, collections of Marbled Papers, used colouring book pages and Matthew Weiner’s notes from Mad Men.
Mingering Mike (2007) Princeton Architectural Press
I love work from outside of usual art practice, especially when it has been created for sheer enjoyment and indulgence and this is a book packed with both. Mingering Mike is a book of hand-drawn record sleeves by a soul superstar who never was. After briefly dabbling with actually writing songs, ten-year-old Mike Stevens instead created a fantasy world of stardom for himself, featuring hit albums like Boogie Down at the White House and Can Minger Mike Stevens Really Sing? Mostly rendered in felt tip pen, each album sleeve houses a handmade cardboard LP and a protective cellophane sleeve and it’s this dedication to detail that makes Mike’s work so interesting. I feel like this is the sort of childhood project I’d have pursued for a weekend whereas Mike explores his ideas completely over a 10-year period, covering changing musical trends and adding careers for his friends along the way. The accompanying story of how his work was discovered buried alongside real records at a flea market and the subsequent search to track Mingering Mike down is also both incredible and heart-warming.
Murdered with Straight Lines (2016), Redcliffe Press
This last book is a nice companion to Mingering Mike, though it comes from the other end of the age spectrum. Garth England was 70 when, upon moving into a care home, he began mapping out the neighbourhoods of South Bristol that he had lived in for most of his life. Drawn largely from memory in coloured pencils on A4 sheets of paper, the title comes from a teacher’s criticism of Garth’s overuse of a ruler in his childhood drawings and the book has the feel of an old school book. Garth hadn’t drawn much during his lifetime and so the drawings are very childlike and almost feel like he’s picking up where he left off. The drawings are heavily annotated with stories and recollections and I find his sudden spark of creativity and urge to get everything down on paper fascinating. Garth’s artwork was discovered by chance when he was being asked about the local area as part of a contemporary art project and the book’s publication was followed by an exhibition of his drawings at the Architecture Centre in Bristol. Although now out of print, we are still asked about it in the Bookshop and so if you see a copy grab it! http://www.futureperfectbristol.org/watch-and-listen/2016/2/22/murdered-straight-lines/