Monday, November 28, 2011

Project Japan: Metabolism Talks (Rem Koolhaas and Taschen)

Today we'll take a look at
Project Japan: Metabolism Talks, an exciting but esoteric new tome published by German luxury-publisher Taschen. It's fascinating to see how Taschen has progressed in the past few years. In most cases, it seems they're trying to refocus their books onto a broader, more general audience, and rightfully so--if they intend to open a growing number of bookstores, they'll need their shelves full of books they can easily sell. Perhaps they've traded their former, out-of-this-world quality and daring mindset with accessibility, but there is something admiral about spreading the appeal of a beautiful folio to those who'd normally never encounter such a thing.

Lately, I've been grumbling about the lack of covet-able books from Taschen. The excitement I have towards my enormous Ingmar Bergman book is nowhere to be found when I peruse their new book on Pedro Almodovar. The beauty that was 2009's MOONFIRE is not nearly matched by their new collector's edition on Marilyn Monroe.

But, then they slip this book out onto shelves: Rem Koolhaas and Hans Ulrich Obrist's
Project Japan: Metabolism Talks. This is a dense, beautifully produced softcover compiling oral histories of Japan's Metabolist movement. There is so much to learn in this book's 700 pages-- with a mild interest in architecture and a ever-expanding interest in Japanese culture, Project Japan is doubly exciting for me. The book points an incredibly detailed eye onto the small group of architects and designers who had hopes of re-imagining the post-war Japanese lifestyle. With architecture these days unfortunately focusing on designer names and locations (though I confess I dream of moving into Richard Meier's slick Prospect Park building) it's incredible to see an era when architecture and design moved so closely in step with a nation's societal developments.

While the design of this book is really quite nice, at $60 I can't imagine many people will snag this one, as it doesn't have the beautiful spreads that many have come to expect from a Taschen book. I hope I'm wrong, though: this book is a reminder that the edgy Taschen is still at work somewhere. I think this is the most daring, unexpected book they've done all year.

This copy is signed by Rem Koolhaas from a launch event in New York City. Take a look:

Currently reading:
Parallel Stories by Peter Nadas

Currently listening to:
M83, "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming"

Friday, November 4, 2011

A post-1Q84 reading season

Apologies for the delay in posting--much of my motivation in October was consumed by Murakami's new book 1Q84. I'm fascinated watching the reviews trickle in; this is certainly a book that will have fans divided. Most reviews, mine included, have been tepid at best. You can read my thoughts here:

Jeff Alford on Haruki Murakami's 1Q84

Admittedly, finishing 1Q84 and the above review feels like I've hung up a big albatross of contemporary literature. This weekend's NYT Book Review puts it very well, though--despite 1Q84's many shortcomings, much of it will linger with its readers.

One thing I'd like to point out is a link one reader left in the comments section of an old Murakami-related blog post. Jonas from Germany (thanks so much!) pointed me towards the special edition of 1Q84 that I wrote about a while back. Here's an image, and additional details on the whole set can be seen at the embedded link:

It's a stunning piece, and completely sold out. Perhaps still not quite worth the price, but the designers did an exceptional job.

So, what's next? I'll feature soon a great new architecture book by Rem Koolhaas and the new unbound book from Visual Editions. Below is a sneak peek of my books-to-read stack, which will be reviewed at in the next month or so. Stay tuned!

Currently reading:
The Angel Esmeralda by Don DeLillo

Currently listening to:
Irma Thomas, "Breakaway"