The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

The Last Bookstore

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At The Paris Review, Casey N. Cep visits  The Last Bookstore in (where else?) Los Angeles :

The Last Bookstore has some of the most beautiful book art I’ve ever seen. You can wander and wander through this wonderland of cuttings, foldings, installations, and sculptures. Some pages are folded, others torn; the books are shaped into birds and windows, transformed into storyscapes independent of their original stories.

Book art might be called an epitaph for our relationship with the printed word. Its power comes almost entirely from the materials that it memorializes. Without the bindings or the recognizable spines, these works of art would cease to invoke their source. And in order to be moved by the work of art, we need to recognize the book, or even the idea of the book.

The setting, the Last Bookstore—apocalyptic, but also an increasingly plausible—makes this association easier, but it still seems clear that none of these works can succeed if they transform the book beyond recognition. The epitaph works only when we recognize its referent. There is both terror and beauty in every work of book art: the printed word mangled, but also memorialized; pages destroyed, but also preserved; books dead, but also resurrected. The Last Bookstore is equal parts mausoleum, shrine, and warehouse.

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