Monday, October 14, 2013

Jonathan Lethem on Robert The's "Book Guns"

Robert The, The Catcher in the Rye, 2006/2010

I was a fan the moment I saw a Robert The "Book Gun" at the Chelsea Museum bookstore in 2007. I am ever so slowly (translation: school has started = little time for reading for pleasure) plowing through Jonathan Lethem's The Ecstasy of Influence and loved this passage on "The Beauty of Second Use." One rarely hears from the originator unless it involves a lawsuit (e.g. Richard Prince vs. Patrick Cariou) so it is refreshing to read about Lethem's interaction with his writing appropriated into a sculpture.

"A few years ago someone brought me a strange gift, purchased at MoMA's downtown design store: a copy of my own first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, expertly cut into the contours of a pistol. The object was the work of Robert The, an artist whose specialty is the reincarnation of everyday materials. I regard my first book as an old friend, one who never fails to remind me of the spirit with which I entered into this game of art and commerce - that to be allowed to insert the materials of my imagination onto the shelves of bookstores and into the minds of readers (if only a handful) was a wild privilege. I was paid $6000 for three years of writing, but at the time I'd have happily published the results for nothing. Now my old friend had come home in a new form, one I was unlikely to have imagined for it myself. The gun-book wasn't readable, exactly, but I couldn't take offense at that. The fertile spirit of stray connection this appropriated object conveyed back to me - the strange beauty of its second use - was a reward for being a published writer I could never have fathomed in advance. And the world makes room for both my novel and Robert The's gun-book. There's no need to choose between the two."

Jonathan Lethem, The Ecstasy of Influence

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