Warren Lehrer, “A Life In Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley”

View of the front cover, back cover, and spine. This book is meant to be held and experienced as an artist book, read as a novel, and seen as a multiple in stores, exhibition spaces, bookshelves, tables.

This 2-page spread features my fictional protagonist’s (Bleu Mobley’s) 73rd book. US Versus Them is a coloring book “celebrating” U.S. military interventions since World War 2. It may not always make a pretty picture, but (according to the jacket copy) it’s time for Americans to face the on-the-ground sacrifices so many people have made in order to bring democracy and freedom to all parts of the globe.

This 2-page spread features several of Bleu Mobley’s limited edition book lamps entitled Illuminated Manuscripts. The lamps add a warm, literary feeling to any home as they illuminate the origins of storytelling, the nature of inspiration, the submersive and transcendent experiences of reading, the fusion of old and new technologies.

This 2-page spread features Bleu Mobley’s line of book clothing and accessories that can keep a person looking language savvy from head to toe. The Rose Collection is named after Bleu’s mother Rose Mobley who was once a fashion designer. The spread also features “The AllBook,” a multi-sensorial electronic reader that leaves nothing to the reader’s imagination.

The printed edition of A LIFE IN BOOKS is enhanced by animations, videos, and short films that can be accessed online, in exhibitions, and in my performance presentations. This animation features Bleu Mobley’s line of book lamps entitled Illuminated Manuscript book lamps. The lamps help light up a room and evoke a warm, literary feeling as they evoke a variety of metaphorical connections to the experience of reading, writing and sharing stories.


Warren Lehrer (Sunnyside, NY)

A Life In Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley
November 2013
4 color offset Artist Book/Illuminated Novel, smythe sewn, case bound, writing, drawing, photography, assorted software applications, plus digital components that enhance the book (animation and video)
Edition of 3,500
380 pages
Open: 9.75” x 15” x 1⅛”
Closed: 9.75” x 7.5” x 1⅛”

A LIFE IN BOOKS: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley is an artists’ book/illuminated novel containing 101 books within it, all written by a (fictional) protagonist who finds himself in prison looking back on his life and career. It is an exploration of one person’s use of books as a means of understanding himself, the people around him, and a half-century of American/global events.

Over the course of one long night, in the darkness of his prison cell, the controversial author/artist Bleu Mobley whispers his life story into a microcassette recorder, tracing his obsessive journey from his junior high school letterpress shop, to a career as a journalist, then experimental novelist, book artist, college professor, accidental bestselling author, pop-culture pundit, and unindicted prisoner.

In A LIFE IN BOOKS, Mobley’s reluctant autobiography 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 portrait of a well-intentioned, obsessively inventive (if ethically challenged) visionary. Evidence of Mobley’s life in books is also illuminated with “reproductions” of his many book-like objects (book lamps, book toys, book clothing, flying books) as well as reviews, articles, letters, posters, even redacted FBI files.

A LIFE IN BOOKS chronicles the mysteries and contradictions of the creative process as it grapples with the future of the book as a medium. Like many of my books, this work attempts to bridge the territories between artists’ books and trade publication, literature and art, humor and pathos, contemplative and performative experiences. The 4-color, offset printed 380 page novel is smythe sewn, case bound (paper over boards), printed on archival paper, and priced as affordably as possible. It was my aim to make a beautiful and meaningful book object/reading experience. I also made animations and short films that enhance the physical book and can be accessed online, in exhibitions, and in my multimedia performances.