The Fun in Holding David Byrne’s Book

Via Notes From Dave Eggers

By Dave Eggers

One of the first times I visited the Oddi Printing plant outside of Reykjavik — it's actually, technically, within Reykjavik, but it's a few miles from the city center — I remember noticing how many very different things Oddi printed. On the factory floor were as-yet-unbound pages from novels, calendars, magazines, coupons, yearbooks, maps — pretty much everything that would need printing in a small country. Or a large country. I'm not sure why I said small country in the first place. I am sorry for that. I do not mean to diminish Iceland for its size. Which is small.

And they printed Bibles. I have a thing for Bibles. For the most part, my Bible-collecting is limited to 19th-century models, but I like them all, especially when their publishers include etchings, paintings, colored type and maps. And I love the faux leather covers so common with Bibles printed in the last 40 or 50 years. I remember asking Bjossi, our point-man at Oddi, if the cost of covering a book with that faux leather was prohibitively expensive, and was surprised to hear it was actually very affordable. In the back of my mind I hoped we could, at some point, be able to use the material ourselves.

But I never thought it would come so soon, and with David Byrne.

Elsewhere on the site we've talked about The New Sins (Los Pecados Nuevos), David Byrne's book, due out very soon. When we first announced our partnership with Byrne, we were in the middle of designing the book, and we subsequently sent it to press, under the supervision of Danielle, who works with Byrne at Todo Mundo.

Well, we have seen the first copies of the book, and we're overwhelmed. Thanks entirely to Danielle's attention — she traveled to Iceland to oversee production — and to everyone at Oddi Printing, the book is just gorgeous. It really looks like a mini-Bible, which was the hope, but good lord, when you get a book back from the printer and it looks this good, you just want to jump around for a while. Byrne's 80 or so photographs look perfect, and the cover looks perfect, and there is, around the cover, what's called a "bellyband" — a thin, removeable band, this one in gold, that includes the book's author, price and bar code. Even the bellyband looks great.

I focus on the book as physical object first because Byrne himself already covered the creation of the text in his diary, and second because the project was originally conceived by Byrne as a piece of art, with the text and format and look of it all important to its success as an object. That it looks precisely like the sort of bound religious tract handed out at an airport or available, for a $1 donation, in the lobby of a church is just as crucial as the fact that it also reads like such a tract.

Which it does. The New Sins is a passionate and strange and funny book. If you read Byrne's account of its creation, you can see how committed he was to writing this book in a way that will strike his longtime fans as startlingly raw. It's really a feat, this. If you follow Byrne's work as an artist and provocateur, don't miss this book.

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