Sunday, June 12, 2011

photobook review: notes on fulford's raising frogs for $ $ $

Article first published as Book Review: Notes on Fulford's Raising Frogs for $ $ $ by Jason Fulford on Blogcritics.

Jason Fulford’s monographs continue to push the limits of what is possible with the photobook, while remaining squarely within the tradition of the book. Last year's The Mushroom Collector is the  culmination-to-date of his elliptical, intelligent sequencing, but it’s hard to beat his previous book, Raising Frogs for $ $ $, for boldly retro design. An appendix is available for the now out of print The Mushroom Collector, and now The Ice Plant has published a Cliff’s Notes inspired supplement to Frogs, still in catalog. Notes on Fulford’s Raising Frogs for $ $ $, which can be purchased directly from the publisher, is a slim, spare volume that nonetheless raises substantial questions about art. It shares design and structural elements with traditional Cliff’s Notes but departs from them in essence: it does not provide a synopsis of its source, nor does it really try to explain the work. Which is as it should be.

“The current publication is not meant to supplant any reader’s personal impression or interpretation of Frogs, nor should it in any way substitute for a direct, immersive experience with the pages of the book, preferably over a long period of time, throughout different stages of one’s life.” That last clause can be taken as a sly reference to the stages of frog growth, but it is also something said about works of great literature, particularly Don Quixote, which they say should be read as a young man, in middle age, and then in one's golden years. I read Quixote in college, and am coming to the age when I better recognize the persistence of delusions, about one’s self and the world; and when I realize that the windmills at which we tilt are merely our own shadows.

Anyway. The first chapter of Notes on Fulford’s Raising Frogs for $ $ $ is not a summary of the book in question but an introduction of concepts: “Exercises in editing” examines pattern integrity and the way we make associations in a dryly funny way that is instructive without being pedantic. A fascinating suggested reading list includes Soren Kierkegaard, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Samuel Beckett, and Harry Matthew’s Oulipo Compendium. Finally, sutdy questions are provided, which ask Cliff’s style questions like “In what ways are chapters IV and VI of Raising Frogs for $ $ $ similar, and in what ways do they differ,” but also ask that we ponder “Did you know in Korea, the number 4 is bad luck, and that in elevators, the fourth floor is marked “F”? To be honest, it would take longer to explain Notes on Fulford’s Raising Frogs for $ $ $, than it would take to read the book, and my explanation would not be half as brilliant. I won’t spoil any more of the surprises in this slight but thought-provoking publication. These Notes may not help you pass your mid-terms, but they are a welcome supplement to Frogs.  And if you haven’t already perused the source, you owe it to yourself and your education to examine and re-examine it at various stages of life.

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