Karl Smith on this week's new books from the Christer Stromholm photography publication, Nick Laird poetry and non-fiction from Ai Weiwei
PHOTOGRAPHY BOOK OF THE WEEK: Post Scriptum Christer Strömholm by Carole Naggar, Christian Caujolle and Christer Strömholm [Max Ström Publishers]
This book is big. I mean – it’s really big – it’s big in terms of physical thickness and it’s big in terms of its scope. So much so that it’s tricky not to resort to clichés when talking about this latest monograph of, arguably, Sweden’s greatest photographer. In fact, two in particular come to mind: “relevant” and “ahead of its time”. Strömholm’s monochromatic tome is made up of shots that capture better than most the spirit of a generation (another cliché for you), but with its focus on images of transexuality it’s also a beautifully crafted “fuck you” to its heteronormativity.
DESIGN BOOK OF THE WEEK: Bring The Outdoors In by Shane Powers [Chronicle]
Beyond the living wall in Anthropologie Regent Street (which is really something more like a comatose wall) and the odd pot plant here and there, I think we can all agree that most of the time the outdoors is pretty much always exactly that. Unless of course you’re Shane Powers (yes, really), who comes bearing good tidings: mostly that your dreary flat is pretty shit, mate. Luckily for us – tasteless oafs – Powers has an antidote that goes beyond a crafty Yucca.
NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei by Barnaby Martin [Faber & Faber]
It’s been a bumpy few years for Ai Weiwei: his Sunflower Seeds enthralled visitors to the Tate Modern and divided critics, while his politics had him divided from his family and the rest of the world when he was arrested and imprisoned in 2011. (He was the cover star for Dazed & Confused’s Human Rights Issue while he was stuck in that awful limbo.) Safe to say, there’s a great deal more to Weiwei than just his art – or, perhaps it’s better to say that Weiwei’s art is a vehicle for a great deal more than just entertainment – a fact attested to by Martin in this account of all the disparate, dissident elements that make up the icon and the man written while dodging the Secret Police.
POETRY BOOK OF THE WEEK: Go Giants by Nick Laird [Faber & Faber]
There are really only two things you need to know about contemporary mainstream poetry: the first is that utter shit abounds – and it abounds en mass. Plath is dead, Hughes is dead, Eliot is dead, O’Hara and Ginsberg are dead and they’ve fucked off to the great stanza in the sky and left us with Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage and their limp handshake light verse. The second thing is that good poetry is making a comeback; Bobby Parkers and Sam Rivieres stem the tide of effluence along with a plethora of independent zines of undiscovered writers. Standing unassumingly among them is Nick Laird, with his willingness to tackle “proper” subjects and, more importantly, ask “proper” questions. The Giants are dead; long live the Giants. Go Giants.