Last Tuesday I went down to New York City for Uni Watch’s fifteenth anniversary party. I’ve written here before about how I love Uni Watch because of its attention to the tiny details of material culture, thus it was exciting to meet its creator, Paul Lukas, and some fellow fans. I have always wanted to go to a Uni Watch party, and this was the first time that I was living close enough to one to go to it. I had been planning to wear my New York Cosmos Johan Cruyff jersey, but a few weeks ago I found a vintage Harry M. Stevens vendor’s shirt from Shea Stadium on Etsy.com for only $10.00, so I wore that instead. I am delighted that, as Lukas says in his write-up of the event here (scroll down to the second half of the post) (as is par for the course for me, in the close-up photograph of the shirt that is linked to in the article I am doing something weird with my arms), the shirt was his “favorite item of the entire gathering.”
Tag Archives: Paul Lukas
Today’s Uni Watch post is another edition of “Question Time,” in which site creator Paul Lukas answers questions from readers about himself. For the first time, I sent in a question, which asked about his favorite New York City bookstore (it’s the fourth question listed).
His answer that while he likes bookstores (and he names the Strand as his favorite, which made me happy), he prefers newsstands and magazine shops struck me because his approach to print culture is so different from my own. This difference is of course not a bad thing, because as long as you are on the print side of the print/electronic wars you are my friend, and Lukas is one of my favorite writers because his work always makes me think, and frequently helps me to see things (often literally things, i.e., objects) in new ways. But Lukas’s answer made me think about why I am not nearly as attracted to the periodical realm of print culture as I am to the book realm. Part of the reason is that my job is to analyze books, and this reason would also explain Lukas’s preference: he’s a journalist, so he’s attracted to other workers in the trade.
But I have to admit that one of the other reasons I am attracted more to books than periodicals is that books feel more permanent. They can sit there on my shelf and tell the story of my intellectual pursuits over the years, and when I buy one I feel a sense of accomplishment, and get that adrenaline rush that capitalism trains us to have when we acquire goods. While I have subscribed to the New Yorker for more than ten years along with a smattering of other periodicals here and there, there isn’t that feeling of excitement when it arrives in the mail that there is when a package containing books does. In fact, though I enjoy reading the New Yorker, it often feels like a task that I have to get through rather than a recreational endeavor like reading a book. So my preference says something about my reading habits: I am more willing to lose myself in a book because I know I will have to invest a lot of time in it, whereas with a magazine I feel like it will only be a quick, disposable interaction.
There’s a new post on Paul Lukas’s Show and Tell blog that is rather fascinating. Some of the objects are rare and weird and others are commonplace, but the stories surrounding the objects are just as interesting as the objects themselves. I love the idea of show and tell for adults in part because I enjoy the history of material culture, but also because I associate show and tell with a kind of awe and joy that I think many of us lose as we get older. I am a cynical person, but I like activities that are able to get me out of that headspace sometimes.
Today on Uni Watch, Paul Lukas has a thought-provoking interview with the site’s number one troll. I am still processing it–it is so interesting to see how the internet allows people to express themselves in idiosyncratic ways.
Bergen, David. The Age of Hope. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2012.
Bergen is one of my favorite novelists, and I just found out that he has a new book out. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been published in the U.S. yet–aside from Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro, Canadian writers get zero respect here–so I had to find a copy from Canada online. I was able to find one from a bookseller in Ontario via abebooks.com.
Braddock, Jeremy. Collecting as Modernist Practice. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2012.
I have always loved collecting things, so this book sounded appealing. As it turns out, the book considers anthologies as collections as well as discussing collecting objects, which is something that I am also quite interested in. I am looking forward to reading it. This, Lukas’s, and Wiebe’s books were bought from amazon.com.
Lukas, Paul. Inconspicuous Consumption: An Obsessive Look at the Stuff We Take for Granted, from the Everyday to the Obscure. New York: Crown, 1997.
I really enjoy Lukas’s Uni Watch blog, in part because we share the same obsession with aesthetic detail. I just found out that he published this book on the subject fifteen years ago, and bought it right away. It looks like a nonfiction version of Nicholson Baker’s novel The Mezzanine, which is a good thing.
Wiebe, Dallas. Skyblue the Badass. Garden City: Doubleday, 1969.
I have been reading a fair amount of Mennonite literature over the past year after a long hiatus from the field. I’ve been struck by how few U.S. Mennonite novels there are in comparison to the Canadian tradition (including David Bergen), and have been making a concerted effort to read the few U.S. novels that do exist. Wiebe was one of the first U.S. Mennonite writers, but I’ve only read a few of his poems and one or two of his essays. All of his fiction is out of print, but I was able to find a copy of Skyblue the Badass (I couldn’t find any of Our Asian Journey) for $46.00. I bought it with some birthday cash. It’s in very good condition, and I love that the back cover has a note from my main man George Plimpton.
I’ve written here before about Paul Lukas’s Uni Watch site, which is a daily stop in my internet wanderings. One of the reasons I love Uni Watch is that Lukas’s material aesthetic is very close to mine: he’s obsessed with fine craftsmanship, enjoys older objects, and has an eye for fine detail (and, like me, is a Mets fan and likes Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine!). Today’s column is one in a series where he answers questions from readers about himself, and it’s worth checking out because it epitomizes what a thoughtful, intriguing person he is.
I just got around to checking out Permanent Record, which is a blog written by Paul Lukas of UniWatch fame. Here is the address: http://www.permanentrecordproject.blogspot.com/.
As someone who is also fascinated by print culture ephemera, I think Permanent Record is fantastic! The blog’s description mentions writing about topics including “things left inside of old books,” which is a subject near to my heart. I sometimes intentionally leave a variety of paper objects in my books, including receipts (especially if I bought the book at a memorable bookstore), plane ticket stubs, business cards, cut-out New Yorker cartoons, and so on. That way, whenever I die (which is when I will get rid of my books, no sooner), some of my books will have interesting things in them for their new owners to discover.
I just read an article by Paul Lukas (http://espn.go.com/blog/playbook/fandom/post/_/id/6053/the-coolest-baseball-cards-of-the-year) about Left Field Cards (http://www.leftfieldcards.com/index.html), an art project by Amelie Mancini that consists of quirky sets of baseball card-esque postcards. I love paper culture, and I love baseball, and I love the nostalgia evoked by baseball cards (I collected them avidly as a boy), so I absolutely love these cards! Their retro style is aesthetically pleasing, and I appreciate their hand-made quality. I also like that Mancini has depicted four Mets (Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, Nolan Ryan, and Kevin Mitchell) in only thirty cards.
But what I especially love about Left Field Cards is the inspiration for the project. Mancini’s biographical statement reads in part that
“She moved to New York in 2006 and didn’t know what a curveball was until a couple of friends took her to Shea Stadium one evening of [sic–Mancini’s slight misuses of English make her story even more lovable] 2007. The Mets lost that night to the Phillies, but Amelie fell hard for America’s national pastime, becoming increasingly obsessed with the game and eventually making it one of the center themes of her work. Fascinated by baseball cards, she decided to print her own and started Left Field Cards in 2011.”
I am always drawn to stories of people’s obsessions, and I think that the tale of Mancini’s discovery of baseball is beautiful (Lukas’s article gives further details). For many years as a teenager and younger adult I was jealous of stories like hers, of people who just had a passion grip them completely and let it become Their Thing. I wanted the same kind of experience; I was obsessed with finding an obsession (Sorry! I couldn’t help myself.). It took me way too long to realize that I already had an obsession–books, both reading and collecting them. So now I worry about cultivating my obsession instead of acquiring one, but I still find stories of other people’s obsessions powerful. It feels like we are part of a club, that even if I know nothing about the subject of someone else’s obsession, I know a little something about them and how they feel. There is a sense of community that forms via these stories, and making connections to one another is one of the essential aspects of living a satisfying life.