Arbitrary Press ~ Illinois
(Matthew Aron)

Suburban Skies: A Field Guide
By Matthew Aron
Chicago: Arbitrary Press, 2010. Open Edition.

7.5 x 7.5"; 32 pages. Offset printed in two colors. Typefaces Quadraat, Tyfa, and Eurostile, Perfect bound.

In the format and spirit of the democratic multiple, Suburban Skies is a cross between a Guide to the Constellations and a modern-day Babbitt - with a dash of Peyton Place and pinch of the Sopranos.

Matthew Aron "wanted to emulate the very brief descriptions of the Greek mythological figures in the constellation books I had as a kid, which were painfully incomplete. (Those always left me curious for more, and thankfully there were well-stocked libraries in my hometown.) But I like to think the individual pages in Suburban Skies are more curious than frustrating in their incompleteness, and that there's pay-off within the book as the suburban-mythological figures start to interact and their stories overlap and crossover."

In a simple and direct way, the book reflects how many of us make our way through the world. As Aron says, "While we wait for scientists to answer those [fundamental] questions with increasing certitude every generation, the rest of us project ourselves beyond what we experience here on the planet, just like the ancients did. We see the universe through human eyes."

Matthew Aron: "Suburban Skies is part of my ongoing investigation into using familiar-seeming nonfiction books as the launchpad for fictional storytelling. In this case, the book is a guide to the constellations of the night sky. In place of ancient myths are figures from the landscape of New York City's suburbs. The year is 1988. The town is Keaton, New Jersey. The vices are drugs and sex. Roni Engel and Jack LaVolpe are high school students trying to navigate the challenges of growing up amidst their parents' and teachers' foibles and failures.

"Is anyone paying attention to what's really going on?"

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Arbitrary Press Out of Print Title:  

A Dictionary of Reading
By Matthew Aron
Chicago, Illinois: Arbitrary Press, 2007. Edition of 10.

5.25 x 8”; 16 pages. Handmade kozo and pigmented cotton fiber. Printed from photopolymer plates on Vandercook proof presses. Typefaces: Quadraat and Akzidenz Grotesk. Stonehenge cover with Japanese-stab binding.

This is dictionary as autobiography, as cauldron for both revelation and obfuscation. The words that appear, their definitions, and the witty self-referential delivery offer an allusive and illusive sketch of the "subject" (the dictionary-maker's term for himself). After defining pain and pleasure, the last pages are folded and bound to render reading difficult, if not impossible — unless you are willing to destroy the book.

The handmade paper and the letterpress printing add to the mystery.

Matthew Aron: "My work is largely an exploration of language and form. I am interested in how relationships, values, memories, and authenticity are all framed by our use of language – and the written word in particular.

"My projects often use the forms of ostensibly authoritative and objective texts (reference books, for example) to explore our subjective experiences. I frequently exploit the ambiguous and equivocal nature of language. I believe we can learn a great deal about our cultural identity from what we avoid clarifying linguistically.

"I use writing, hand papermaking techniques (such as pulp painting), graphic design, letterpress printing, and bookbinding to make books and other objects that explore the language we inhabit."

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Page last update: 12.18.11

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