Forrest Wickham of Slate reports for NY1 on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
Two new books take a closer look at two of today's most acclaimed artists: movie director Wes Anderson and the band Wilco.
"Wilco: Sunken Treasure," by Tim Grierson, out now from Omnibus Press, is a pretty straightforward biography of the band. After discussing Jeff Tweedy's time with alt-country group Uncle Tupelo, the book goes one-by-one through each of his band's albums, from "A.M." through 2011's "The Whole Love." Each chapter can be read in about the time it takes to listen to one of the albums, and there's a little time for Tweedy's side projects along the way.
Grierson didn't speak to the group, but, as he says in the introduction, he hopes this helps him come to the music without too much baggage. Indeed, like Wilco, he takes a no-nonsense approach, focusing on the music, not the typical sex and drugs of many rock biographies. Wilco already has one such biography: Greg Kot's "Learning How to Die," which chronicles the band's troubles up through the making of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. But though Kot's book was very successful, it was published nine years ago now. For fans who have stuck with them, "Sunken Treasure" provides a clear-eyed, if not always groundbreaking, overview of the band and its evolution.
The first thing you'll notice about "The Wes Anderson Collection," the new book from Matt Zoller Seitz, out now from Abrams, is its size. In appearance, it most closely resembles a coffee table book, and it's certainly as pretty, with wonderful illustrations from Max Dalton and lots of glossy stills from Anderson's films and inspirations. It opens with a beautiful defense of Anderson, from acclaimed novelist Michael Chabon, but the bulk of the book is a series of in-depth interviews with Anderson himself, looking at his movies one at a time.
At times, I wished that Seitz had transformed these interviews into tighter arguments about Anderson's work. Seitz's video essay series about Anderson and his influences, called "The Substance of Style," remains among the most compelling and insightful work on the writer-director. But history has shown the value of extended interview books like these, and the consistently delightful design ensures you'll be entertained every time you crack open the book.
Both books make ideal gifts for fans of either artist, even if only one of them is the right size for reading on the subway.
Read full reviews of many other great new books on the Slate Book Review at slate.com/books.