Dawson, Robert. The Public Library: A Photographic Essay. Princeton Architectural. 2014. 192p. ISBN 9781616892173. $35. ARCHITECTURE
Robert Dawson’s The Public Library is a stunningly photographed, stunningly realized book, a compact square of 192 pages containing the spirit of American public libraries, showing what they have done and what they can do. From a formerly segregated Carnegie library in Louisville to the statue of a worker with a book in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, from gingerbreaded Victorians and a local dreamer’s one-room library to a temporary trailer after Hurricane Katrina and Seattle’s shiny central library, from libraries with solar panels to those lending tools and libraries that are now shuttered, too, this is America. Robert Dawson was working on a collaborative photographic project called Water in the West when a conversation sparked the idea for this book, begun in 1994. As he says in the introduction, “Since coming of age during the Vietnam War, I have been interested in the things that help bind us together as a culture. It wasn’t much of a leap from my interest in water in the West to the shared commons of public libraries.” Here’s a book to make us grateful for the common good of public libraries, and here’s a book to share.
Griffin, Adele. The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone. Soho Teen. Aug. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781616953607. $17.99. YA
Adele Griffin’s new work, The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone, is the imagined biography of a teenage artist who shot into the stratosphere and then died mysteriously. Described by the author herself as a “docu-novel,” it offers images of Addison (with model Giza Lagarce as stand-in) and the work of five artists from whom the author obtained rights. Most importantly, it offers the writing of a two-time National Book Award finalist who hooks us from the first page with an indelible portrait of the elusive, mercurial, undeniably talented outsider Addison, using interviews with friends, family, teachers, mentors, boyfriends, and critics to try to net a butterfly that couldn’t be netted. It’s an intriguing and distinctive formal device, and the result is liquid, engrossing, sometimes sobering reading. And, by the way, it’s a Junior Library Guild selection. Read it—it’s not just for teens.
Kick, Russ. The Graphic Canon, Vols. 1–3. Seven Stories. 1,600p. 2013. ISBN 9781609803834. $125. GRAPHIC NOVELS
An editor of best-selling anthologies, Russ Kick has been called an “information archaeologist” by the New York Times and one of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World” by the Utne Reader. You can’t argue with those assessments when you look at his monumental three-volume The Graphic Canon, which, over the course of 1,600 pages, offers some 190 classic literary works in graphic format with the help of more than 130 illustrators working in deeply diverse and always eye-catching styles. Just how many anthologies you know range from the Epic of Gilgamesh to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. In the introduction to Volume 2, Russ makes the case for classic literature as “more exciting, relevant, and subversive that it generally gets credit for being.” He also makes the case for literary adaptation, citing examples from Gustave Doré’s indelible images of The Divine Comedy to Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera. But he didn’t have to argue so hard. As School Library Journal said in its review, this anthology is a masterpiece.