Many years ago, when I was in my late teens and early twenties, I was travelling two or three times a year from the U.S. through the Southeast Asian city state of Singapore. These trips were usually en route to Australia and Papua New Guinea to visit family and make “visa runs” during the summer and winter months. I got in the habit of visiting bookstores in Singapore and picking up a lot of novels along the way to satisfy my voracious reading habit on the long flights and months traveling this part of the world.
In Singapore, there’s a lot of contemporary literature by local writers published in English. One such book was “Man of Malaysia” by Tan Kok Seng. His novel reads like a memoir of a poor, working-class man coming of age and finding a life in a homeland that was going through rapid economic development and social change. For a young, white Western man, his story offered a fascinating and rare perspective.
Many years later, I stumbled upon this book in a box we unpacked during a move to a new home. The minimalist design and line-drawn portrait on the cover make the book stand out and is probably what first got my attention when I browsed the display tables of a bookstore in a mall off Orchard Road in Singapore those many years ago.
Good design can serve many purposes. One is to invite the viewer in, to pique a curiosity and draw them to further explore. This book didn’t change my life, but it offered profound, unique insight that likely I would not have gained had I not noticed the book in the first place.
Last week, we stumbled upon this vintage copy of Yoko Ono’s influential 1964 conceptual-art book “Grapefruit.” It was in a display case arranged with various jewelry, accessories and other small objet at General Store in Venice, Los Angeles. The cool-as-fuck book cover has a black-and-white photo of Ono and titles in a lower-case serif typography of a style that has re-surfaced in recent years in the indie magazine and graphic design worlds. The book itself is not so much an artwork as it is a collection of instructions for creating specific performance art pieces and media, a legit artificat from art’s Fluxus movement of the 1960s in downtown New York, where Ono established herself as a leading figure.
On a recent visit to the Arcana bookstore in Culver City, in Los Angeles, we checked out some beautiful coffee-table books on surfing and surf photography. Among these was a book titled “Surfing San Onofre to Point Dume: 1936-1942.” It’s a collection of sepia-toned photos by Don James documenting his surfing experience and his surfer friends and their lifestyle in Southern California during the pre-World War II era and early war years. The photos reveal what the surfing life was like in its first idyllic golden age when the Hawaiian “sport of kings” was still novel and taking root in California.
One of our New Year’s resolutions was to sift through our library here and choose books to throw out, give away or sell. Our bookshelves here at GG HQ in New York are overflowing with printed matter. It should be an easy task, but whenever we embark on one of these semi-annual house-cleaning bookshelf purges, we stumble upon an old book or magazine that stops us; its striking cover design or title forces us to pause and re-consider whether we should throw it out.
That was the case with the anthology of articles and essays by pop-culture writer Chuck Klosterman’s aplty titled “Chuck Klosterman IV,” pictured below. (The title is a nod to British rock legend Led Zeppelin, which the author devotes a dozen or so pages to.) The book’s cover design caught our attention again much like it did the first time we saw it while browsing the “New Non-Fiction” shelf at the McNally-Jackson Bookstore in Nolita.
Anyway, we spent the next hour re-reading a few of the articles and were tempted to keep the book, but in the end, we decided to say “Goodbye” to this volume and find it a new home with a friend or colleague who will enjoy its humor, insights and opinions. If you’re not familiar with Klosterman’s work, “IV” is a good intro. His book “Sex, Drugs and Coca Puffs” is one of the 2000’s pop-culture must-reads, and we highly recommend it.
Issue No. 3 of our favorite Euro-centric, global, artsy, small-format indie surf magazine has just arrived. We love Acid magazine, and this issue is a keeper (but aren’t they all? Yes, they are.) Lots of beautiful photography, essays and art in this one.
We’re loving Acid, a fresh and artsy surf magazine based in Europe. In issue Number 2, pictured here, there’s beautiful photography and photo essays and fascinating personal essays about surf adventures in unlikely places like the southeast of England where waves are extremely rare and the Eisbach River in Munich, Germany, hundreds of miles from the sea and many more from an oceanic surf break.