Reasons to be Cheerful by Paul Gorman
I probably won’t read from it on Saturday, but a couple of years ago I wrote the entry on Elvis Costello’s 1979 album Armed Forces in Continuum’s 33 1/3 series. One book I wish had existed while I was writing is Paul Gorman’s Reasons to Be Cheerful (Adelita), an inspiring, informative, and copiously illustrated retrospective of the work of British graphic artist Barney Bubbles. Bubbles – born Colin Fulcher – created the innovative ‘look’ of Costello’s albums, singles, posters, ads and other ephemera from 1977 until his death in 1983. At his most imaginative, Bubbles treated the medium of the record cover as an object in its own right, experimenting with inside-out sleeves (the “Accidents Will Happen” seven-inch), pre-worn or damaged effects (Get Happy!), and elaborate die-cut arrangements beyond the traditional gatefold (Armed Forces itself), commenting on pop music’s commodity status as surely as Costello’s image and songs. These examples only scratch the surface of Bubbles’s work, which Gorman tracks from his art-school roots creating light shows for post-Floyd psychedelic acts (Hawkwind, Quintessence) through his punk-and-new-wave-era role as house designer for Stiff Records (Ian Dury, The Damned) and Costello’s short-lived F-Beat label – and, toward the end, as pioneering director of the Specials’ “Ghost Town” video. Though his name isn’t as well known as that of Factory Records’ Peter Saville (who contributes an appreciative foreword), Bubbles exerted a massive, under-acknowledged influence on the material culture surrounding popular music as it entered the post-modern age.
Squeezed: What You Don’t Know about Orange Juice by Alissa Hamilton
Were you aware that, since 1985, most of the orange juice Americans drink has come from neither Florida or California but Brazil, which nearly all of its output to us as concentrate – in part because Brazilians themselves hardly drink the beverage? This is only one of the revelations of Alissa Hamilton’s Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice (Yale), which I encountered, more or less by luck, while trying to track citrus sinensis (the sweet orange) through its appearances in poems by Wallace Stevens, Frank O’Hara and Kenward Elmslie. Hamilton’s quixotic history hasn’t helped directly with that project, but the stories she tells have turned out to be fascinating in their own right. The “freshness” and “wholesomeness” supposedly contained in that glass beside your breakfast plate turn out to be ideological products as much as agricultural ones, the result of negotiations among government, consumer advocates, and the citrus industry over the labeling and marketing of various forms of frozen, pasteurized or reconstituted juice, not to mention spokeswoman Anita Bryant’s housewifely appeals to “come home to the Sunshine Tree.” Buttressed by a meticulous reading of the FDA’s 1961 hearings on “Definitions and Standards of Identity” for orange juice, Squeezed isn’t literary in intent, but its expression of the strangeness and complexity of a substance most of us barely think about is inadvertently poetic.
Franklin Bruno reads on 12/12 at Bushwick Reading Series.