Bothered by My Green Conscience
Local artist Franke James is no stranger to interest in her endeavours to go green, but with Bothered By My Green Conscience Franke has made the jump to the hardcopy book world. Until now people have only been able to follow her stories through her vertically-oriented, online visual essays, a format that had be to re-worked to fit a book 5.75" wide and 6.75" tall.
Franke not only provided the book content but designed the book too, and thank goodness she did. Her visual aesthetic is as crucial to the stories as her compelling content, and if the design of the pages were left to somebody else I suspect the translation to paper would not have been so perfect. And that's really the word here: perfect.
But don't tell Franke it's perfect - she found a glaring error (and by glaring I mean to Franke only - nobody else would have ever known), and in typical fashion has gone on to tell the whole world about it.
Apparently the inside of the front and back covers were to be printed red, but thanks to human error they came out plain old white. When I first flipped through the book, like everybody not named Franke James, I didn't notice a thing and thought the book looked pretty darn good. When Franke looked, her heart sank and she didn't know what to do.
After all, her green conscience (nor that of the publisher's - who print an environmental benefits statement at the back) wouldn't let her ask for more books to be printed, but the artist in her felt that part of her work was missing - the effect was not the same. So she did what all artists do these days (or not), and turned to Twitter, asking her many followers when their green conscience bothers them. She turned the most inspiring answers into book plates that she is making available as free downloads (and tells the story in classic visual essay style) - so we can all print out our faves and paste them where the red was supposed to be.
But inside covers and bookplates aside, I read through the whole book - comprised of 5 visual essays, 4 previously published online and one new one - in short order. Having seen the four essays online (including the popular green driveway installation) I thought I may find myself thinking about the web version, but I was absorbed in the book format and it felt like reading a brand new story again.
The new entry, a letter to her future (as yet unborn) grandchildren in 2020 was a touching and clever way to articulate the reason Franke has become a green crusader. Not that people need to justify why they sell their SUVs, install a green driveway or otherwise go green, but since Franke keeps making waves with the grand green gestures she makes, this essay gave her the freedom to express, in her own way, why it's so important to her that she does her part for our planet.
And so whether it is for inspiration, admiration or discussion, this undersized book will become my new favourite coffee table book. Not only does it take up less space, it's more important than whatever beautiful picture book I might have put out instead.
The book lists for $16.95 and is available at major bookstores and online retailers now(ish) and may (or may not) be at your local independent bookstore very soon. Cover image courtesy of New Society Publishers.
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