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Boring Postcards USA Hardcover – October 18, 2000
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You know those old postcards that show the local meatpacking factory in all its cinder-block glory or the sickening color scheme of a cheap '70s motel room? Well, here they are. Beginning with panoramas of highways in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and other U.S. states, Boring Postcards segues to truck stops, restaurants, motor inns, malls, airports, military bases, factories, tools, and automobiles. Every image is certifiably boring, whether by dint of a photographer's ineptitude (dead-on views taken from too far away) or the sorry state of corporate architecture and interior design. And yet, as earnest advertisements for the American Way of Life, they all radiate a sunny faith in the uniqueness and desirability of whatever they portray.
There's not a word of commentary in this book, but that part is up to you. Certain things begin to stand out as you flip through the pages. Like the always blue skies. (Positive thinking!) Or the potentially interesting details that are uniformly obliterated, thanks to those polite middle-distance views and the muddy qualities of cheap lithography. There's a weird tension between the blandly generic ("Fine Food" reads the only visible sign atop a low-slung white building) and the proudly local (according to the postcard caption, this is "The famous Blue Grill on U.S. 40, St. Elmo, Ill."). In its silently subversive way, Boring Postcards proposes that we look more closely at this hallowed form of marketing to see what it tells us about the values and standards of mainstream American culture. --Cathy Curtis
'Such American hot spots ... may have been boring then - or, stranger yet, they may not have been - but they're so cheesy now they're delicious.'(The Wall Street Journal) 'A wry collection of American gems.' (Metropolitan Home) 'Boring Postcards USA reads as a technicolor-toned paean to the optimism of postwar America.' (Interiors) 'A magnificent compendium ... has a hypnotic feel, and is a reminder that America isn't all the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and New York skyline.' (Simon Hoggart, Guardian)
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This book houses numerous spectacular examples of postcards so horribly drab, it makes you wonder what could have possibly been the motivation to produce them, or more importantly, actually buy and send them. I am extremely fond of the "ugly motels" series, which serves as a reminder of how ghastly style was in the 1960's.
Some of my favorite postcards are "Sunset Travel Trailer Park, Route 1, Fort Stockton, Texas," "The Spartan 3-way Imperial (#23K4C)" (the ugliest television you have ever seen,) "Ariens Sno-Thro--Rotary Mower, Reel Mower, Lawn Vacuum, Rotary Broom, and new Shredder Grinder and Shredder Bagger," "Big Yank Motel and Restaurant, US-131, Kalkaska, Mich.," "The beautiful and spacious dining room of the Wesleyan Retirement Home in Georgetown, Texas," "Oil Tank Farm, near Midland, Texas" (possibly the singularly most blighted landscape I have ever seen in my life), and my very favorite card in the book, "The Heart of any Resilient Plastering Job: Olsen REZ Clips," a postcard that is utterly mysterious in every way.
I love these cards for being random and strange remnants of our past. I don't understand why they were made or who would buy them (though some of the are actually postmarked!) but find them charming in their own enigmatic way. I only wish they were able to be sent: who wouldn't love to get a postcard of "PIC Precision Engraved Dials. Disc or Drum Types--Single Stop or Vernier Index."?
I collect antique postcards (pre-1900 to about 1930, plus new ones that catch my eye) and have seen a ton of really boring cards like this on line and at shows. I have a shoebox full of cards that are similar which I despair of getting rid of, short of throwing them away. It's stunning how many boring, poor quality cards were produced during this time period.
Putting a bunch in a book with a plain cover was genius. Most people have never seen such boring cards! The novelty, idiocy and irony is great fun for them. My son and I giggled our heads off at most of the cards, uttering the obligatory, "Look at that! That's SO BORING!" at many of them. One favorite is obviously taken from the middle of the freeway. It's simply an up close view of the overpass. Another freeway picture is labeled "picturesque." After learning this new word, my kid laughed his a$$ off. my other favorite is an aerial view of a mostly wooded area with a white box drawn over some of the trees. It says "Proposed Site of Future Taconite Plant." You know, not where the plant is NOW. Not where they are sure the plant WILL BE. Where it MAY be going! LOL Plus, what the heck is taconite?? Who cares??
Greatly recommended for the LULZ. A great oddball gift. It would make a great guest bathroom or (not gawd awful large) coffee table book.
May 4, 2013
Turning the pages of this book was one of the most memorable experiences
of my lifetime. The book has changed my life. I no longer have to fear insomnia.
Just the mental picture of any one of those postcards will put me to sleep.
I can say with certainty that anyone who gives the book to someone will never be
forgotten by that person.
I can say with certainty that the book alone on a coffee table in front of a
sofa will immediately generate lively interest and conversation two minutes
after guests arrive.
No home should be without one.
I would describe the book as an insomniac's best friend: the ideal companion on
an air flight.
Say good-bye forever to sleeping pills. Pretty nice, huh?
I give the book five stars and am frustrated that I can't give it ten or a hundred!
Jazz De Cou
The description of the images themselves is absolutely correct though. The images are definitely boring and plain, but still fun to look at.