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The Coffee Table 

Wednesday, Dec 19 2001

Go ahead, judge this book by its cover: Perhaps the single most spectacular release of the season — in terms of presentation, at least — is the 10-pound, Ultrasuede tome Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (Taschen, 381 pages, $150), created in honor of the director’s 95th birthday. Enormous in both size and scope, Hot chronicles — through hundreds of photographs, memorabilia and new interviews with Wilder, Tony Curtis and the late Jack Lemmon — the definitive story behind the legendary 1959 comedy. Also included are first and final drafts of the screenplay, with corresponding film stills running alongside each annotated page. The most unusual feature is an exact replica — down to the worn, yellowed pages — of Marilyn Monroe’s tattered personal promptbook containing handwritten notes (“pull skirt down” and “freeze like a bunny”). Pricey, yes, but Wilder and Monroe fans will find this essential.

Gita Wolf and Sirish Rao’s retelling of Sophocles’ Antigone (Getty Publications, 28 pages, $19) makes for a humbler but equally treasurable volume — a celebration of storytelling, drawing and the art of bookmaking. Each copy of the 4,000-some edition was handcrafted in India, bound with thread, and silk-screened onto paper handmade from cotton rags and wastepaper — you can still smell the ink. Featuring rich, dramatic illustrations by Indrapramit Roy, based on images lifted from ancient Greek pottery, Antigone comes in a hand-folded slipcase.



Dennis Hopper


The title of celebrity/fashion photographer Roxanne Lowit’s short, fat paperback, People (Assouline, 208 pages, $30), is a little misleading, as the cover image suggests: Pamela Anderson slumped languidly in the back seat of a car, her white panties peeking out from under a denim mini. No simple people here, and virtually no text, either — just a steady stream of high-energy, after-dark images of glitterati ranging from Iggy Pop to Paloma Picasso, prowling party circles in New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo and Los Angeles. “My life is filled with the fabulous and the glamorous,” Lowit writes. “People, parties, fashion, models, celebrities, drag queens” — all of whom are here in this decadent and visually indulgent glam trip. A nice complement is the very tall, fat Dennis Hopper: 1712 North Crescent Heights (Greybull Press, 180 pages, $75), which offers a narrower, but no less intense, view of ’60s celebrity life. Gathered from Hopper’s own archives by his daughter Marin, the actor’s intimate and often melancholy photographs document a short but tumultuous period in his life — 1962–68, “a horrific time of alcohol and drug use,” he writes, but also a “strangely creative time” — and the circle of actors and artists who passed through the family home on Crescent Heights. Together, Hopper’s photos provide a panoramic view of that decade’s L.A. aesthetic: vintage cars and leggy ladies in polka-dot bikinis, for instance. With an introduction by Hopper’s ex-wife Brooke Hayward and a three-way Q&A featuring Hopper, Hayward and Marin, 1712 is a surprisingly honest and deeply personal journey.

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The House Book (Phaidon Press, 512 pages, $45) is just that: a book of houses. And architects. And designers. And philosophies of style. The massive, slickly packaged collection showcases 500 different architects, in alphabetical order, with one page/one photo/one blurb for each, and cross-references others working in similar styles. The buildings range from a 16th-century Hindu minister’s red-sandstone palace to the decorative, bamboo, tepeelike structures of an Abelam village in northern New Guinea, to iconic Western homes such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and new LACMA architect Rem Koolhaas’ OMA house in Bordeaux. This global architectural overview celebrates not only the aesthetic and functional aspects of the home, but the concept, in general, of shelter. In the process, it serves as a resource for the architecturally knowledgeable as well as eye candy for design lovers.



Crosstown


In her introduction to Crosstown (PowerHouse Books, 192 pages, $75), the most comprehensive collection of Helen Levitt’s Manhattan-area photographs yet published, Francine Prose prophetically writes that the artist’s pictures “remind us of how rapidly everything changes, of how large a fraction of what we see won’t exist in its present form only a heartbeat from now.” Like the New York City skyline. Levitt’s stark and evocative candids capture a tender side of Manhattan that is more difficult to conjure now: a city of neighborhoods, where small children frolic in spray from street-side hydrants while leathery-faced elders watch from the steps of their brownstones. Levitt is truly an American treasure. Other influential female artists — 93 of them, to be exact — are surveyed in Women Artists in the 20th and 21st Century (Taschen, 576 pages, $40), a thick flexi-bound softcover that profiles, on equal par, both established icons such as Frida Kahlo, Marina Abramovic´, Valie Export and Nan Goldin, and nascent art-world figures like Vanessa Beecroft and L.A.’s Pae White, whose colorful More Birds provides the cover art. Each entry contains beautifully reproduced selections from the artist’s oeuvre, with commentary, but one of the most enjoyable sections is actually the table of contents, an eight-page compendium of passport-size snapshots of each artist.



Darger


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