You must read this book if:
1. You love books
2. You admire brilliant humor
3. Your response to most contemporary art is, "Oh, come on -- seriously? I mean, *seriously*?"
After reading this book, you'll still retain factors 1. and 2., but you'll enjoy some relief from 3.
Katchadourian's premise is so dazzlingly simple, you'll kick yourself for not having thought of it first. At least you will if you're me and you own literally thousands of books and wish you'd thought of doing this with them. Then again, Katchadourian is working with book collections all over the world, not her own stuff. Then again, I haven't even told you what she does yet, so maybe I should stop muttering to myself and get to the point, already.
Nina Katchadourian is an artist whose "sorted books" are photographs of books. Specifically, she shuffles titles together to make statements -- usually funny, sometimes meditative, occasionally devastating.
The photo on the cover is an example of how these pictures look and work. Sometimes, instead of stacking the books, she leaves them on the shelf surrounded by books whose spines are turned toward the wall.
One example of this latter method is the following three titles turned out for the viewer:
What's Eating You?
Hey, Man! Open Up And Live!
Katchadourian has a lot of fun when books by different authors have the same title:
The Story Of My Life
Why Me? [by Frida Waterhouse]
Why Me? [by Garrett Porter and Patricia A. Norris]
...or when someone owns multiple copies of the same book:
Repeat After Me
Are You Confused?
Are You Confused?
Although some of the sortings have as few as two titles:
I Am A Conductor
And Do You Also Play The Violin?
...the longer ones are a romp:
When I Relax I Feel Guilty
When I Say No, I Feel Guilty
God Always Says Yes!
Don't Say YES When You Want To Say NO
(She makes it look so easy!)
Occasionally, the sortings rhyme:
The Death Of Superman
Off The Wall
Although there are frequent allusions to literature, history, or art, Katchadourian is always playful, never snooty:
Raised By Wolves
Some of the humor is on the dark side:
Death And Disasters
...and not all the sortings are humorous. Some read like somber meditations:
Made Of Iron
The Victor Weeps
The End Is Near!
...and others are painfully apt:
Indian History For Young Folks
Your National Parks
Best of all, some of the sortings mention books that pique the curiosity and make the viewer want to raid her local used bookstore. ("Very Bad Poetry," edited by Kathryn Petras and Ross Petras! "The Literary Guillotine," whose authors I can barely read but whose cover art displays, yes, a guillotine!)
I haven't even mentioned all my favorites here, because there are just so many. If this representative sampling doesn't make you want to check the book out, I don't know what will. I found it at my local library, but I want to add it to my wish list, and keep it in mind for various friends on gift-giving occasions. I also don't know how I'm going to resist the urge to indulge in some "sortings" of my own, if only to get a better understanding of just how much work goes into this deceptively casual art.