Arboretum
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2006
When TIME magazine put Byrne on its cover back in '86 and called him "Rock's renaissance man", some people shrugged it off and said "yeah, right". Well, that caption has more than withstood the test of time. I can't think of anyone who's been as prolific on so many artistic fronts.

Most recently, he's been quite prolific in his online journal, which itself is a mind boggling display of the incredible range of topics constantly churning through Mr. Byrne's gray haired head.

First and foremost, David Byrne's art (yes, even Talking Heads) is about design. So, as with his previous books, the first thing you notice about the book is its design. "Strange Ritual" was black with big gold letters; the idea was to make it feel and look like a Bible.

Then came "Your Action World", which was huge, and had rubber covers. Not sure what the deal was on that (although a great book in the annals of anti corporatism).

After that, he did a mini Bible called "The new Sins", which by and large, turned the teachings of the real Bible upside down (literally, the book itself could be read upside down or right side up, and in Spanish or English, depending on your mood or bilingual proficiency).

Anyway, "Arboretum" has the look and feel of a library book on certain subjects, maybe philosophy or archaeology, or psychology, in short, an academic look and feel about it.

I started reading this book by just selecting pages at random. By approaching it this way, at first the various drawings have an automatic, stream of consciousness writing feel to them. There's a 4 foot pullout in the back of the book, however, which covers a bunch of topics, corresponding to the various diagrams on numbered pages of the book. If you read the book this way, then the tree diagrams begin to make a lot more sense.

On the latter note, it was Byrne who coined the term "Stop Making Sense". I always took that as "let go of reason, and let the spirit and subconscious take over". As it turns out, Byrne is a very methodical fellow. While he draws heavily from dreams and the subconscious, he prefers to stick to a fairly rigid structure in his concert tours. This aesthetic also emerges in the book, for the most part, and sort of contradicts the whole notion of "Stop Making Sense".

At any rate, Byrne is indeed a true renaissance artist by any definition, and it's always a thrill to see and hear what he's up to next. If you're a long time fan, this is definitely worth buying. If you're nostalgic for a Talking Heads reunion and consider that period his finest hour, you're not likely going to enjoy much of his post TH work or this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2009
Gives a secret peak into David Byrne's writing. A brilliant set of David Byrne's perceptual maps. Great insight into how to collect word 'seeds" and grow them into a thought. Arboretum. A set of words pertaining to a topic, that is then mapped out in organic and diagrammatic form. This poetic and subtle juxtaposition of terms often makes me laugh. I'm surprised this book hasn't gotten more attention. The document view on Amazon is way too light and misses the connection of the topic on the left page with the perceptual map on the right page. The Look Inside! view could be rescanned to benefit how clever this book really is.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2007
What a great book for sparking ideas. Byrne Makes connections to intangible thoughts in a visual medium. It is also wonderful to catch a glimpse of the creative process of one of the greatest creative thinkers of our time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2012
I've enjoyed much of David Byrne's music over the years and agree with those who would call "Stop Making Sense" the best concert film ever made. I bought this book with little prior knowledge of its contents and I love it. It's certainly not for everyone. It's not fiction. It's not non-fiction. It's...something else. Page after page of weirdly beautiful and spare pencil diagrams of trees and tree-like plants and their (hypothetical) root structures. A few bar graphs and other drawings thrown in. At various places among the tree branches and roots, Byrne pencils in labels. Their appears to be no conventional logic to these, but they make sense in their own way. In the back, is a fold out section with notes on some of the drawings.

This book is a great example of how creativity comes out of a broad-ranging--if somewhat unhinged--mind. I found it delightful, funny, and at times, profound and moving. I'm really glad I own it and I suspect I'll return to it often.
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on July 24, 2014
The book is like a journal with extremely basic line drawings. Each page has a topic and there are key words that the author uses to explain the topic from his perspective. I did like the materials that were used to make this book, but I didn't think that the author's work was especially compelling to me personally. It's a book that one would sit and ponder, but most of the topics aren't things that I care to think a lot about. If you want to get into the mind of the author, this would be one way to do that.
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on April 23, 2013
Through drawings, mostly outlines of trees & plants, attached to words, David Byrne makes many surprising, some obvious when seen & some not, connections. It is sometimes fun, often thought-provoking, always a display of a brave creative mind at work. The drawings were sold as limited editions & the book is beautifully produced. If there is one non-Kindle book you are going to buy this year, this is it. Or buy a few - they make perfect presents for lateral minds.
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on January 1, 2013
Arboretum is a key to understanding the way a very thoughtful man has never stopped making sense. It is probably most accessible to other baby boomers who share Byrne's context. We were the first generation to attend college en masse, and rock music has always galvanized our perception. Someday it will be the text for a deconstruction of our time.
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on July 29, 2013
Here again is further evidence of DB genius. A one of a kind book that is deeply intellectual and rather silly at the same time. I really enjoyed this book and learned a few things too.

Thanks David!
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on December 3, 2013
This is one of the books on my daughter's wish list while she was majoring in plant sciences. She had borrowed her professor's book and said it was a great help and she wanted her own to keep.
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on October 17, 2013
Thought it would be interesting to see what he was doing graphically, but its not all that great and very repetitive. disappointed.
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