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.
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 Indemnityand 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 McCormickMIKE 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 HarveyTHE 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.