My fourth book was supposed to be my third. I thought I’d finished it in 2015, after going away to a Minnesota artists’ retreat near the boundary waters, the birthplace of every mosquito that ever was. I sent it to agents and publishers and none of them wanted it. I kept trying for a time, but then shelved it.
In the following couple years, I had four or five other book ideas meet similar fates; though I didn’t get nearly as deep into them as this one. It kept eating at me. Last year, Jerry at Tortoise accepted Music to My Eyes so I put most of my energy into getting that book together. Then, sometime this year, Soviet Stamps started tugging at my sleeve again.
I reread it and decided to dive back in. I asked one of the editors of my first book to take a crack at it, then, when she didn’t discourage me from going on, incorporated her suggestions. The experience of making the music book basically soup to nuts made it a lot easier conceive of completing this thing myself. I decided not to sit around waiting for another round of rejections and made up my own book imprint. I’m calling it Pictures & Blather, just like this newsletter.
I’ve realized while trying to get the music book out there that I’m peddling a print with some words in it, more or less. Thinking of books as art objects brings them closer to what I’ve been doing my whole life. Before that, I was dealing with an impenetrable monolith called the book world. My few inroads were mainly as a reviewer, but I rarely felt part of any sort of community. Now that no one is paying me to review books, I can disengage more completely.
In many ways it feels like I’m back where I was after graduating art school. I take jobs to get by and I do my artwork. The two are often not connected. I can live with that. The silver lining of no one giving a fuck is that you can do whatever you want.
The format of Soviet Stamps will be similar to that of Music to My Eyes. Limited-edition hardcover, foil-stamped. I’m sending it to the printers in Michigan this week. Shooting for a release in late-December/early-January. I’ll tell you more when I know more.
—The Chicago Neighborhood Guidebook is now available. I wrote about the Heart of Chicago, where I lived for seven years.