Investigative Journalism that is as
Radical as Reality Itself.

Livres Deluxe

by GAVIN KEENEY

The tidal wave of big books passing as coffee tables has come for the Holiday Season 2002. This year’s big sensation includes: Grace Coddington: Thirty Years of Fashion at Vogue (with slipcase), the perhaps bi-annual Visionaire #38: Love (a self-consciously stylish compendium of everything hip, chic, and — um — stylish), and Palaces of the Sun King

The mammoth tome on the graphic works of Albrecht Durer, associated with the current exhibition at the British Museum, will — alas — not be available till February/March 2003.

Then there is the big photo-documentary New York, New York with its six-feet-long gatefold image of the New York City skyline. If that does not please, one can opt for Dressing the Man: Mastering The Art of Permanent Fashion, or perhaps a crisp monograph — David Adler Architect — on David Adler Architect.

The publishing sensation of the year — Dream of Palestine — written by a fifteen-year-old Italian girl (of Palestinian descent) will not be available in the U.S. (in English, French or Italian), but you can buy Oriana Fallaci’s anti-Muslim screed The Rage and the Pride (in five languages). The former is in the process of being suppressed overseas and will probably never see the light of print in the U.S., while the latter has climbed the bestseller list despite being universally condemned as a post-9/11 apoplectic tirade in ‘defense’ of the supremacy of Western values. Odd, indeed, since both of these titles come from the same publisher.

Moving down the publishing foodchain one can buy innumerable cloth-bond works of non-fiction and self-congratulatory biography. This includes Al and Tipper Gore’s latest literary outing Joined at the Heart. Or perhaps the new David Rockefeller Memoirs might please the man about town on your Christmas list.

Pop-up books are very popular this time of year. The Pop-Up Book of Phobias (1999) still charms. Plus, there is now a Pop-Up Book of Nightmares (2001). There is even an Antonio Gaudi pop-up book this season — or, should you prefer, Frank Lloyd Wright in Pop-Up. Pop-up architecture titles seem to be on the rise.

There are all manner of little gift books available for the inexpensive, novelty gift. The Worst Case Scenario line has been extended to include a sex and dating edition — not to mention ‘holiday’, ‘travel’, and ‘golf’ editions. There is a rash of dog books too. Designer Pugs is charming. Perhaps next year will see Pugs in Leather.

Enormously expensive editions of enormously expensive jewelry are au courant this year. There is Jar Paris, a monstrous tome on the work of the French jeweler. The Queens’ Jewels has made quite a splash in newspaper Christmas book lists.

Tom Brokaw’s books continue to sell well — Anybody say ‘synergy’? — and there is a cookbook from one of the characters of The Sopranos.

Wine books are an excellent choice, for example Michael Broadbent’s Vintage Wines is an excellent supplement to a case of a nice French red. There’s also a book on caviar, foie gras, and truffles (Caviar, Truffles, and Foie Gras: Recipes for Divine Indulgence)! Or perhaps that nice boxed edition Ferrari 1947-Whenever will warm the heart of your boyfriend, father, brother, or employer.

Few people give novels this time of year even though — like Hollywood — there is a rash of new stuff aimed at the holiday down-time. These are almost always semi-expensive cloth editions and you have to wait till at least one year for the paperback.

There’s also a mini-spate of auto-erotica: ‘boy books’ as they are called. Bruce Weber’s annual photo-narrative All-American: Short Stories has just arrived and features “eroticized images of Hudson River beaches”. “Girrrrrl books’ are harder to come by.

And let’s not forget the Bushisms series. These collections of Thus Spake the So-Called President continue to please partisans of all stripes. The quotations are eminently ‘quotable’ and one has to wonder if the So-Called President is receiving royalties.

Lastly, let’s not overlook the interiors, decorative arts, and above-mentioned architectural monographs aimed straight at the heart of nouveau-riche America. O new Gilded Age! There are so many books on this subject that it is all but impossible to sort out the style of the moment though cool minimalism seems to reign supreme in the upperly-mobile, chic world of the urban cognoscenti.

At Bergdorf Goodman the elegant publications of Assouline were on display this past week, with wine, as the holiday season accounts for perhaps 1/4 to 1/2 of all de luxe, annual book sales. This event took place on the seventh floor amid a gorgeous array of ‘housewares’.

Big, swank volumes are the gift of choice for corporate giving and orders of 100 titles are not unusual. “Could you wrap those, include a card, and we’ll send over a messenger.” “We’ll fax over a list of the recipients for the gift cards.” The $7-an-hour seasonal workers at these luxury book emporia are only to eager to oblige, half hoping many of the books will be returned after December 25 and their temporary jobs may be extended a week or two in order to process the deluge.

GAVIN KEENEY is a landscape architect in New York and writes on the subject of landscape + architecture + other things, a cultural amalgam always-already forthcoming. He is author of On the Nature of Things (Birkhauser, 2000). He can be reached at: ateliermp@netscape.net

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