Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Book Review Things I Have Learned In My LIfe So Far by Stefan Sagmeister


When I first opened the package containing Things I have Learned In My Life So Far, by Stefan Sagmeister, I quickly realized it was different from what I am used to reviewing. However, my experience with unique has come into play before.

Sagmeister made a name for himself as a graphic artist. Clients would hire him to design brochures and the like for advertising purposes. If they needed a picture for their annual fundraiser, they knew just who to call.

When he decided to take a year's sabbatical from commerical work to see what would happen, he kept a daily diary. It wasn't long before he noticed what he wrote would be best displayed in public for others to see and apply in their own lives.

To describe Sagmeister's work as a novel would be misleading. It is more like an object of art. The contents were my first hint. Rather than a bound novel which reads cover to cover (for most of us, anyway), a selection of pamphlets falls out of the box. They represent the process of creating his displays. There is a story behind each one, shared with readers.

Those who think on the right side of their brains, or creatively, are going to especially enjoy the cover. It takes the author's face and creates a template. By slipping a pamphlet behind, the image is immediately changed.

Which booklet stood out to me the most? I think it's the one which talked about "Over Time I Get Used To Everything And Start Taking It For Granted". This happened in New York with a variety of mediums. After Stefan sat on a windowsill and dangled his feet out, people mistook him for a jumper. Oops! The police were called, but Stefan managed to leave the scene before he got into trouble.

I also liked "Starting A Charity Is Surprisingly Easy". I was reminded my help can always be used by somebody. Sagmeister and his friends made a difference in the lives of homeless people by handing out bags of stuff twice a month. A student in one of the artist's art classes came up with a way to thank garbage collectors for what they do.

This book is an intriguing look at the things all of us value. Even if one disagrees with the concept or an individual saying, there is something to be said for Sagmeister's vision in sharing with the world.

Book Review The Dead Guy Interviews by Michael A. Stussser


The Dead Guy Interviews Conversations with 45 of the Most Accomplished, Notorious, and Deceased Personalities in History, by Michael A. Stusser, is a satirical look at those who died but left their mark on the world. These are folks who will be spoken of for generations to come.

Give the author credit for doing homework. Prior to each chat, a brief history is given as to why the person in question should be remembered. This is extremely helpful. Some celebrities are more known than others.

The table of contents is also useful. Since people are listed in alphabetical order, one can easily find those interviews most interested in rather than having to sift through other junk first.

It should be noted, however, to take things with salt. Stusser deviates from what actually happened during an interviewee's lifetime and gets down to what modern day readers want to know. At least, what he imagines most care about.

Frida Kahlo, the Mexico City artist equally famous for her work as well as politics, is asked if she ever considered shaving her monobrow. The response is classic Khalo, a failure to answer useless questions of an impertinent reporter who does not recognize her true importance.

Cleopatra is more accepting. As a woman, she understands herself well enough to entice the writer with seduction. The tactic works, as the reaction is felt throughout.

Isadora Duncan gleefully talks about her death by strangulation. In a way, she left this world with the same joie de vivre as when she entered. Although she died at the hands of her own scarf, the visual image is crystal clear.

Abraham Lincoln, our 12th President, discusses his love life. Being a politician, though, he cannot help but bring up his time (albeit shortlived) in office. Yes, the assassination is mentioned. Conspiracy theorists will have more fodder to play with.

Oscar Wilde, perhaps best remembered for The Importance of Being Earnest, recalls how his life was turned upside down by those who didn't understand him. Laws to protect decency made certain relationships illegal, which put many a man in a difficult spot.

Offbeat? Yes. Different? Very. That being said, this book is one you pick up and read anyway. Each interview is self contained, so selections do not overlap. It can be read all at once, or a bit at a time.