A LIFE IN BOOKS: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley
(Goff Books 2013) is an illuminated novel containing 101 books within it, all written by Lehrer’s protagonist who finds himself in prison looking back on his life and career.
Nearly a year after the controversial author is thrown into a federal prison for refusing to reveal the name of a confidential source, he decides to break his silence. But it’s not as simple as giving up a name to the grand jury. Over the course of one long night, in the darkness of his prison cell, he whispers his life story into a microcassette recorder, tracing his journey from the public housing project of his youth, to a career as a journalist, then experimental novelist, college professor, husband, father, accidental bestselling author, pop-culture pundit, and unindicted prisoner.
In A LIFE IN BOOKS, Mobley’s autobiography/apologia is paired with a review of all 101 of his books. Each book is represented by its first edition cover design and catalogue copy, and more than a third of his books are excerpted. The resulting retrospective contrasts the published writings (which read like short stories) with the author’s confessional memoir, forming a most unusual portrait of a well-intentioned, obsessively inventive (if ethically challenged) visionary.
Written and designed by acclaimed author/artist Warren Lehrer,
A LIFE IN BOOKS is an extraordinarily original, funny, heartwarming and heart-wrenching exploration of one man’s use of books as a means of understanding himself, the people around him, and a half century of American/global events. Rich with stories that spring from other stories, this genre-defying novel orchestrates a multicultural symphony of characters from Bleu’s life and books: lovers, mothers, children, friends, enemies, teachers, students, runaways, rebels, thinkers, dreamers, believers, skeptics, the displaced and dispossessed. It chronicles the mysteries and contradictions of the creative process, and grapples with the future of the book as a medium, as well as the lines that separate truth, myth, and fiction.
This four-color, full-length novel—containing over 101 hilarious and scrumptious book cover designs (and book-like objects)—fuses art and literature, and distinguishes itself as one of those books you’ll want to hold in your hands, feast your eyes on, read and re-read, share with friends, and treasure for years to come.
7.5”x9.75”, 380 pages, 4 color throughout, hardbound, printed on acid free paper.
ISBN 978-1-939621-02-3 Distributed by PGW (Publishers Group West)
A LIFE IN BOOKS is the the lead title in the launch of Goff Books, a new imprint of ORO Editions, which features works of Visual Literature, and books on Art, Design, and Popular Culture.
Written, Designed, and Illustrated by Warren Lehrer.
Some illustrations were made in collaboration
with Melina Rodrigo Smyres and Donna Chang.
Jonathon Rosen collaborated on the cover art.
“In A Life In Books, Warren Lehrer has written a profound commentary on this nausea-inducing unique moment in the grand transition from Silly Mind to Machine Mind. Amusingly and smartly enough, he may have helped transition ‘the last great American novel’ to the first ‘great illustrated novel’ which is how novels started. A Life In Books is brilliant, beautiful, delicious for eyes and mind.”
Andrei Codrescu poet, novelist, journalist, public radio commentator
“For anyone who has ever resisted judging a book by its cover, now’s your chance: In A Life In Books, author and graphic design visionary Warren Lehrer crafts a vivid kaleidoscopic odyssey that frames one man’s life through not one, but one hundred different books—and book jackets. In this quirky, yet unmistakably modern evocation of the illuminated manuscript, Lehrer’s book reminds us that we are what we do. And, for that matter, what we publish.”
Jessica Helfand graphic designer, writer, educator, founding editor Design Observor
“In the era of cookie-cutter books and rubber-stamped stories, Warren Lehrer’s A Life In Books is fresh, original, idiosyncratic, beautiful, and important.”
Rabih Alameddine novelist and painter, author of Koolaids, The Perv, Hakawati, and I, the Divine
A Life In Books is unique, incredible, affecting, meticulous, the perfect hide-and-seek game, and honestly, one of those works that seems so obvious and fertile as a structure, it’s hard to believe it hasn’t been done before. Am I gushing? I just love it. This is an important book.
Stephen Farrell design innovator, Vas An Opera In Flatland and Toc: A New Media Novel
more videos coming soon!
In his performance/readings, Lehrer presents an overview of Bleu Mobley’s life and work with projections of his book cover designs and other biographical materials including animations and video performances of Mobley book excerpts by the band BETTY, beatbox poet Chesney Snow, actress/poet La Bruja, actress/author Judith Sloan, and others.
A Life In Books presentations are funny, entertaining, and thought provoking. They focus on: the creative process (how life events can influence an artist’s work and vice versa); the future of the book, reading and writing; and the lines that separate truth, myth, and fiction. Whenever possible, Warren likes to engage audiences in a Q&A afterwards, and sign books. In some venues, he combines an A Life in Books performance/reading with an overview presentation of his own 30+ year career as writer and artist. Workshops on Visual Literature for writers and artists are also possible.
Sept 21, 6-7:30pm NY Art Book Fair Contemporary Artists’ Book Conference Keynote Speaker PS1, MoMA, LIC, NY
Sept 19–21 NY Art Book Fair Exhibitor PS1, MoMA,
Oct 4, 4pm Quintessential Queens Conference Performance/Reading w/ Judith Sloan Queens College, NY
Oct 11, 7:30pm AIGA National Conference Book Signing Minneapolis Convention Center, MN
Oct 17, 5:15pm SAIC Chicago Art Institute Lecture/Performance and Workshops Chicago, IL
Oct 24, 7pm Boston Art Institute
Lecture/Performance Boston, MA
Nov 1, 7pm The Greene Space @WNYC
BOOK LAUNCH/Performance Reading New York, NY RESERVE A TICKET NOW
Nov 7, 7pm Art Center CollegeLecture/Performance Pasadena, CA
Nov 11, 7:30pm Skylight BooksPresentation & Signing Los Angeles, CA
Nov 12, 7:30pm The Booksmith BookstorePresentation & Signing San Francisco, CA
Nov 13, 7pm Book Passage Bookstore Performance/Reading Corte Madera, CA
Nov 23 Miami Book Fair, Performance/Reading Miami, FL
Dec 6, 7pm Queens Council On The Arts Performance/Reading Astoria, NY
Jan 2–4 College Book Art Association Conference Performance/Talk Salt Lake City, UT
Jan 7-8 Teton County LIbrary Workshop/Lecture Jan 7, Performance/Talk Jan 8 Jackson Hole, WY
Feb 6, 4:30pm VCU Virginia Commonwealth University Lecture/Performance Richmond, VA
Feb 13 6pm New York University Boookstore Performance/Talk New York, NY
Feb 21–March 14 LaGuardia Performing Arts Center Theater Residency Queens, NY
March 14 LaGuardia Performing Arts Center Little Theater Queens, NY, 8pm
March Rutgers Week Residency, Performance/Lecture, Workshops, Panel
In addition to the book covers, and catalogue descriptions, A LIFE IN BOOKS includes thirty-four excerpts that run anywhere from one to nine pages. Some early readers of A LIFE IN BOOKS have stated a desire for many of these excerpts to keeping going.
To answer this call, we’ve decided—in the tradition of Bleu Mobley’s own ‘team writing’ process—to ask readers to help complete some of Bleu’s books via a writing contest/crowd-source project.
We decided to begin this interactive reading and writing experiment with two of Bleu Mobley’s books. His very first novel, The Switch, and his first short story collection, Spit Sonata.
Once these books have been completed, they will be published as ebooks. If your contribution is selected for inclusion, your name will be listed in the writing credits of the ebook, and posted on this website along with your excerpt. You will also receive an Official BLUE MOBLEY WRITING TEAM CERTIFICATE, as well as an 8”x10” inkjet print of the Bleu Mobley book cover (or image of a Bleu Mobley book-like object) of your choice—printed on 100% rag paper, and signed by Warren Lehrer.
We invite professional, amaeteur, and aspiring writers, teachers, students, creative writing classes, college freshman writing classes, readers who don’t even think of themselves as writers but felt pangs of curiosity about what else happened in many a Bleu Mobley book—to give it try.
More details coming soon.
A Life in Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley traveling exhibition includes all “first edition” cover designs of Bleu Mobley’s 101+ books accompanied by catalogue descriptions. It also includes “reproductions” of Mobley’s book-like objects including the illuminated book lamps, the book toys, poetry toilet paper roll, book clothing and accessories, and the Flying Book Project. In addition to the mounted prints, there is video: animations of pop-up books, ‘ad spots’ for Bleu Mobley books/projects, and videotaped performances of actors, musicians, and performers bringing Bleu Mobley excerpts to life. And of course, copies of the book are also on display.
This exhibition is designed to travel easily and inexpensively. It fits into a few boxes, ships at a reasonable cost, and is relatively easy to install. The art and text panels are archival inkjet prints mounted onto sintra board, with mounts on the back. The exhibition is ideal for university galleries and museums, art, design, and literary centers, libraries and bookstores with exhibition areas.
This funny, thought-provoking and beautiful exhibition tells the story of a [fictional] writer/artist through a chronological overview of his life’s work while reflecting on fifty years of American/global events, the publishing industry/the future of the book, and the creative process. There are two editions of this exhibition, so it can be on view at two locations simultaneously. The exhibit is also an excellent companion to using the book as a learning tool, and is a good example of approaching stortelling through a variety of media. The Crossing the BLVD exhibit connected to that book/project worked in this well, to great effect, and traveled to 15 locations including museums, galleries, and universities in New York, Maine, Maryland, Tennessee, Utah, and Ohio.