Book Review: BOOKS by Kevin McNamee-Tweed
In this collection of faux book jackets, you can totally judge books by their covers
Reviewed by Seth Orion Schwaiger, Fri., Aug. 14, 2015
Kevin loves a lot of people. This past weekend, I gleefully picked up a first edition of Mr. McNamee-Tweed's newly released book of drawings ... of fake book covers ... titled BOOKS. The artist was sitting at the counter of Farewell Books behind a small handwritten sign reading "The Artist Is In." I asked him to sign my copy, and he obliged, opening the cover and carefully drawing a rose. Then he added "KMT 2015" and a small drawing of a heart, followed by "U Seth." I was touched. Then I saw him repeat that same routine with many other copies of the book, each owner privately saying how touched he or she was by it. I felt an oh-so-brief flicker of juvenile jealousy, a sense that the repetition cheapened an experience I had first thought was singular and special. Singular no, but special yes. As he does with his drawings of books, Kevin chose to undermine convention in order to expose human desire and expectation – and he does so while making people smile.
Published jointly by Austin-based Farewell Books and Raw Paw Press, and Brooklyn-based Molasses Books, BOOKS is a handsome crimson-colored volume, its cover embossed simply in crude handwritten caps, the back emblazoned with Yelp reviews (complete with all their usual absurdity) instead of the accolades one might expect. Inside are more than 100 drawings of fictitious books, bookmarks, and posters whose titles, subtitles, and accompanying texts are ridiculous in the extreme. Readers will enjoy such works as Violet Blonde ("Kicked out of art school, frightened of Suburbia, seduced by filth and angst ... a strong female protagonist conquers her mild and mainstream demons to become super fucking edgy and very urban ...") and, from the nonfiction section, It's Only Your Fault: How to Self Help Yourself ("What to say when you look in the mirror. What to finally do with your hands. How to stand. How to forget."). The draftsmanship is intentionally poor, with perspective lines askew fencing in messy washes of color. The typography follows suit. With these attributes, the particular sense of humor, and the habit of leaving scratched-out words on his covers, McNamee-Tweed at times gets dangerously close to the trademark tropes of David Shrigley, a widely celebrated artist operating in the same vein. But in the end, the astute art historian must ask, "Who really cares?" Most readers/viewers are having too good a time to worry much about such things, and those who do probably wouldn't mind the Shrigley-esque becoming a genre in its own right anyway.
If, as Kevin says in the book, "humor is a conductor of other feelings," then who could argue with having a little more of that levity interjected into a field known for its elitism and pretension?
BOOKS by Kevin McNamee-TweedFarewell Books, 913 E. Cesar Chavez