Friday, January 9, 2009

Coffee Table Book Party: "Designs on the Land"

So I had this awesome idea of hosting a Coffee Table Book Party. Mrs.5000 and I would set out selections from our fabulous collection and invite all of our friends, many of whom we know have excellent coffee table books of their own, to bring theirs too. Then, we could drink and have snacks and look at each other's coffee table books together!

Except, as much as this sounds like the Best Party Concept Ever to a confirmed introvert such as myself, I'm afraid it might leave something a little lacking for those among our friends who like to actually interact socially at parties.

So, instead of actually hosting an old-fashioned "bricks and morter"* party, I'm moving the Coffee Table Book Party onto the World Wide Web*! Over the next several months, you'll be seeing some of my favorite coffee table books, with a few amateurish but enticing photographs of their contents along with a brief review. If you have a favorite coffee table book of your own that you would like to share, send in pictures and a quick writeup. It'll be a party!

Alex S. Maclean, Designs on the Land; Exploring America from the Air. Thames & Hudson, 2003.



There are plenty of coffee table books out there that compile beautiful aerial photography. This one may well be the best of them all. Its focus is not conventionally beautiful landmarks and scenery, but the patterns imposed on the ordinary landscapes of the United States by our very way of life.


From a variety of heights and angles, Maclean's photographs reveal the often stark geometries of our cities, neighborhoods, and countryside. Patterns are revealed that derive from the deliniation of space into functional zones, from its devision by transportation corridors or property lines, or from the repetition of landscape forms.
The double-meaning contained in the title is no mistake. Maclean's images are strangely beautiful, but they contain an implicit critique of the mechanized nature of modern life. This is not without its snobbish overtones -- the snobbery of the person who looks at a busy street full of people conducting their daily business and, viewing them in the aggregate, regards them as an unthinking mass of lemmings -- but it is not without its validity either. Sometimes it's kind of alarming to see what we look like from a distance.

As of tonight, there are used copies on Amazon for as little as $11.90. Or check your library!

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*Remember the late 90s?

11 comments:

Rebel said...

FWIW - to me that really does sound like the BEST PARTY CONCEPT EVER. Well, maybe not ever... but I would go, and I would bring "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" It's a functional cookbook, but the pictures are amazing. I might also bring the concert book from U2's Elevation tour.

Rebel said...

PS - don't step on your books! What did they ever do to you???

Tereza said...

I also think a coffee table book party sounds like a lot of fun. Coffee table books are just my speed. Lots of pictures, very little text ;)

Serendipity said...

I actually liked the pictures with the toes of Michael5000's shoes in them best! They point out that he in turn is taking kind of aerial views of the book on aerial views. . . it wouldn't have occurred to me to notice that otherwise. . .

I too would like this as an actual party, but since I would ONCE AGAIN be left out of the partying because of the geographical discrimination involved in the fact that you always seem to hold your parties on the West Coast, I'm delighted it's going to be online. I may even have to find a coffee table book to contribute something myself. (The Compact OED and Norton Shakespeare First Folio facsimile, which I already have, are about the right size, but I don't think they probably technically qualify.)

Your description of the book itself reminds me of Koyaanisqatsi, which, unfortunately, I've never seen either. It sounds interesting!

P.S. I found myself in the novel (for me) position of defending cartography last night with some friends at dinner. Many thanks to your blog & blogfriends (Cartophiliac, e.g.) for the general enlightenment!

andrea said...

That looks pretty cool.

I am a fan of Barcelona from the air.It's SO tidy

http://www.fotografiasaereas.com/fotos/barcelona_22a.jpg

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3019/2681571441_3226b039db.jpg

Yankee in England said...

Cool idea. Like the Converse

Jenners said...

This is a pretty good idea! I'm in ... I 'll try to work on this but I probably won't have anything to you until February as we are leaving for a vacation on Friday. This book actually looks pretty cool. I just love coffee table books!!! This is actually a party I would go to in real-life ... but I 'm a nerd like that.

My coffee table book contribution will be "Timeless Toys" and its all about toys developed by individuals and how they evolved over the years. We just love it.

Another great Michael 5000 idea!

Michael5000 said...

@Reb: Well, you'll have to be on the guest list. And for the record, I step on my books very GENTLY.

@Teresa: You're invited too!

@Serendip: 1) Aerial views of aerial views! Trippy.

2) "Defending Cartography"? Was it under attack? Defending cartography sounds about as necessary as apologizing for Nitrogen.

3) "Koyanisqatsi" is dated but classic, and you really ought to see it. I also love the soundtrack, but you won't.

@Andrea: That IS nice. It makes me want to visit Barcelona. Or maybe just fly over it in an airplane.

@Yank: Oh yeah.

@Jenners: We await your entry with bated breath.

Laura said...

Nice shoes.

Chuckdaddy said...

Coffee table party... I think it would work, but everyone would need to be stoned instead of drinking. And the books would need to be placed randomly around the house, so people could bring in some book they found like they hunted it. Yeah, I think that would be fun...

boo said...

I love coffee table books. they have saved me from death by boredom so many times growing up.

I have to look around for mine. Most of them have bite marks from the time of beagles. Beagles especially like to chew on Japanese wood block paintings books it turns out.

I could be gone for days looking at them. It would make a great party for folks with a bit of social anxiety too. If it gets to tense, there's always be something nice to hide in.