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The Coffee Table 

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GO-SEES: Girls Knocking on My Door | By JUERGEN TELLER | Scalo | 480 pages | $50 hardcover

Madeleine, Natalia, Shona, Miele, Collette, Emma, Helen, Celine, Anna, Corrie, Alissa, Teresa, Goya, Phoebe. These are some of the young women who came from all over to see the London-based German photographer Juergen Teller. Some were already models, most simply wanted to be, and when they knocked on the door of his studio, he photographed them right then and there — in the doorway, or on the sidewalk. There’s a year’s worth of girls here, and besides the obvious interest — the pretty and not-so-pretty and occasionally very pretty faces — the 470 color plates form a sort of über-image of our times: youth obsession, self-obsession, obsession obsession. What surprises is just how fascinatingly uninteresting it all is. "Get a life, girl!" one wants to shout. "Go to school!" Still, there are some light moments: Is it any wonder that someone named Denise Boomkens is so beautifully endowed? Or that Erica Stormquist looks like so much trouble? And why is Lori Fredrickson bending over like that? For all its seeming repetition, this is a book that, like that other German picture show, Run Lola Run, takes you places.

Tom Christie

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WOMEN | Photographs by ANNIE LEIBOVITZ, essay by SUSAN SONTAG | Random House | 247 pages | $75 hardcover

A collection of celebrity portraits by Annie Leibovitz was the first book of photography I owned, back in the early ’80s. The same grand-performance quality I loved then made me approach her new book with caution. What I found, however, was a thoughtful, lovingly constructed book with 117 compelling images of women, some young and sleek, some weathered, some accomplished, some not. Backed by a Susan Sontag essay, the book explores the representation of women, how they are looked at, how they are encouraged to look. Since Leibovitz began her relationship with Vanity Fair, she has created an expansive body of work, shifting effortlessly from one shooting style to another. The exciting thing here is that Women comes without a gimmick; the work feels more personal, more dignified, and immensely respectful of her subjects.

—Kathleen Clark

MORPHOSIS BUILDINGS AND PROJECTS, VOLUME 3: 1993–1997 | Essays by Thom Mayne, Tony Robins, Anthony Vidler | Rizzoli International Publications Inc. | 456 pages | $85 softcover

YOU ARE HERE: THE JERDE PARTNERSHIP INTERNATIONAL | By FRANCES ANDERTON with essays by RAY BRADBURY, MARGARET CRAWFORD, NORMAN M. KLEIN and CRAIG HODGETTS | Phaidon Press | 240 pages | $75 hardcover

Two books on the work of two prominent Los Angeles architecture firms that couldn’t be more different — the firms as well as the books. Morphosis, which grew up alongside Sci-Arc, where two of its principals were instructors, is the vastly hipper of the two. The book makes a nice objet, but after flipping through its 800 digital illustrations, one wishes for old-fashioned photographs of the actual buildings. (Like a singer who performs his standards only as an encore, the designers do include a few photos at the back.) Morphosis principal Thom Mayne begins his essay, "When architects write about their work — and they probably shouldn’t . . ." He should have held that thought, but instead continues unabated (and unedited) and with extensive footnotes. Also included is a time line of Morphosis projects and world events, such as the demolition of the Berlin Wall and the release of each Peter Greenaway film. Enough said?

Far more interesting, surprisingly, is You Are Here, Frances Anderton’s look at Jon Jerde, the man who gave us the themed mall: CityWalk in Universal City, the Bellagio in Vegas, Horton Plaza in San Diego, the Mall of America in Minnesota, and several international projects, most notably, Canal City Hakata in Fukuoka, Japan. If these projects lack the cutting-edge visual intrigue Morphosis offers in spades, it’s no surprise: Says Jerde, "Our stuff isn’t supposed to be visual. It’s supposed to be visceral." If nothing else, it is that, and Anderton (a producer of KCRW’s Which Way, L.A.? and an occasional writer for the Weekly) and the other essayists bring it — and its cultural contexts — alive in a readable, thoughtful and thought-provoking manner. Given our status as "a consumerist republic," as Klein has it, You Are Here may be one of the most important books published this year, like it or not.

—Tom Christie

EDWARD STEICHEN: The Early Years | By JOEL SMITH | Princeton University Press in association with the Metropolitan Museum of Art 168 pages | $60 hardcover

Fifty-seven beautifully printed, large plates reproducing prints from the photographer’s precocious 20s and the century’s first decade — before he went on to perfect celebrity portraiture for Condé-Nast — convey marvelously the subtle tonalities and layered depths of the "fluid-saturated, chalk-scraped, intensively handled" originals (as Joel Smith describes them in his jargonless introduction). Rooted in Whistler and Monet but modern in energy and effect, these pictures — of racetrack crowds, woodland scenes, naked women or famous men — have the loamy richness of charcoal drawings: Forms emerge out of a dark ground in smears of light, or (as in his crepuscular studies of the Flatiron Building) barely emerge at all. Though soft-edged and scant of detail, they possess an immediacy, mystery and force not often found in the crystalline images of our prosaically hi-res, full-color present day.

—Robert Lloyd

BORING POSTCARDS | By MARTIN PARR | Phaidon Press | 176 pages | $25 hardcover

Collect enough of anything, photograph it, precede it with a bashful adjective and you can probably find a publisher to profit from your pathology. But Phaidon Press is no ordinary publisher, and you are no Martin Parr. Englishman Parr’s collection of post cards serves as droll sociographic documentary of Britain’s optimistic postwar civic architecture. Profoundly useless images with erotically charged titles — "A Bend on Porlock Hill," "A Corner of the Moota Motel, Cockermouth," "Butlin’s Skegness: A Corner of the Garden" — combine to produce a refreshing ennui likely to trigger irreversible static nightmares in sensitive readers ages 6 to adult.

—Dave Shulman

CONVERSATIONS WITH WILDER | By CAMERON CROWE | Alfred A. Knopf | 373 pages | $35 hardcover

Once upon a time in Hollywood, long before video directors ruled the day, there was something called the writer-director. This was someone who labored over a screenplay for a year, then spent close to another year making his picture. Billy Wilder was one such person. He made a great number of films, including Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard. They were called classics. Many years passed, until the young writer-director of Jerry Maguire, Cameron Crowe, had the great good sense to ask the ancient Wilder how he did it. And the sage, having lost none of his brilliance over the years, told the young writer-director his many secrets. And those secrets became a book. And that book gave great pleasure to those who read it.

—John McCormick

MIKE KELLEY | Edited by Isabelle Graw, Anthony Vidler and John C. WelchmanPhaidon Press | 160 pages | $30 paperback

One of the most significant and influential visual artists to emerge in the 1980s, Mike Kelley spearheaded Los Angeles’ advent as an international art center, on par with New York or Berlin. Ranging from adolescent sexual and scatological cartoons to elaborate room-size sculptural unravelings of difficult post-Freudian theory, Kelley’s art has managed the rare feat of looking great and encompassing a wide range of arresting ideas. Phaidon, as part of its handsome Contemporary Artists series, has published a judiciously assembled, long-overdue survey of more than 25 years of the artist’s work, supplemented with a section of Kelley’s writings, an in-depth interview, a career overview and a critical essay focusing on one piece. Highly recommended.

—Doug Harvey

THE COLLECTIBLE G.I. JOE: AN OFFICIAL GUIDE TO HIS ACTION-PACKED WORLD | By Derryl DePriest | Courage Books | 176 pages | $20 hardcover

The dark alley in which the American-military establishment and doll collectors meet is where you’ll find 12 inches of General Issue Joe — G.I. to friends. And in the parlor where they go for coffee and conversation you’ll likely find this survey, which combines Derryl DePriest’s encyclopedic knowledge and prodigious collection of G.I. Joe action figures. More than a catalog of Hasbro’s famous toy, The Collectible G.I. Joe presents 35 years of poseable-action history in dioramas recalling the terrain of a boy’s imagination. Also included is a value guide listing the figures, accessories and their potential dollar amounts should you wish to tally your "investment" — which is invariably the word grown men use when they play with dolls.

—Bill Smith

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