From the Mixed-Up Bookshelves: The Culture of the Copy

Just a quick note on this 1996 book, which makes for an interesting contrast to Norton’s Republic of Signs.

I don’t know anything about Hillel Schwartz, though I have two of his books. He’s got a good eye for interesting topics, though, and a pack-rat’s sensibility when it comes to collecting anecdotal material. The Culture of the Copy could actually use a good deal more analysis or synthesis: it’s detail-rich, but argument-poor. That’s cool, though. I think I’d rather have something like this, a weird, interesting book simply loaded with interesting material than a book that pronounces its austere theoretical conclusions from some rarified height. Schwartz’ book gives me ideas, it retrains my sight, it makes think in new ways about old problems. It’s generative, and I think would be so not just for scholars but also for artists, cultural critics, just about any generally educated reader. Whether it’s “scholarly” in the sense of academic careerism is one thing, but it’s certainly erudite.

Also, wow, but Zone Books did some really nice book designs back in the 1990s. They’re still around but I feel like I don’t see their books as often as I used to, even in fairly scholarly bookstores.

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