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Too Much Bliss review - Bookways
Tetenbaum, Barbara. "Too Much Bliss Review." Bookways 43 (January 1993).

Granary Books. [Drescher, Henrik.] Too Much Bliss. [1992. 23 illus. page spreads.] 30.5 x 24 cm. Exposed spine, black cloth-covered boards with cut-out holes, in a cloth-covered clamshell box with a gold-leafed label on spine. 41 copies.

Colophon: Drawings printed on Rives BFK by Philip Gallo at The Hermetic Press. Extensive handwork throughout by the artist Bound by Daniel E. Kelm at the Wide Awake Garage. Also included are various omamentalities by Lauren Drescfier. Boxes by Jill Jevne.

I've been circling this book like a suspicious cat for the past month, not daring to form an opinion about an object that is so much an extension of the artist that only his physical presence is missing. Henrik Drescher, perhaps best known as a writer and illustrator of children's books, has poured his guts into Too Much Bliss. There they are, in the form of contorted creatures, floating body parts, exploded decoration, splattered watercolor, collage, cryptic messages written in an elegantly clumsy hand, sheets of latex, and "omamentalities" by his wife Lauren. Drescher describes all this as "scars, tattoos, cracks, memories, impressions, flashbacks, forgotten instructions," or, as written on the last page, "everything at once."

It's an aggressive book. Rather than lie patiently for you, the inquisitive but respectful reader, to open and discover the first of its twenty-three page spreads, the large swiss-cheese-style holes in the cover reveal an array effaces and phrases to reel you in. Turning the cover, you discover a page of lacerated latex, which smells and feels slightly repulsive yet serves in some ironic way to shield you from the onslaught that is to come.

It's hard to describe what comes next. As in his book comeundone (published in 1989 by Poote Press), Too Much Bliss is filled with a combination of banal and grotesque images derived from Drescher's sketchbooks. These are accompanied by scattered phrases suggestive of one for whom English is not the mother tongue: "Buy now... Rewards Later," "(re)Member... Dismember," for example. All this is embellished with collage, drawings, and paint, further expressing Drescher's vision and energy.

In order to facilitate an edition of this activity, Granary Books has brought together Philip Gallo and Daniel Kelm to create the stage upon which Drescher improvises. Gallo letterpress-printed the basic imagery from photoengravings onto Rives BFK. The pages were sent to Kelm, who bound them using his fascinating wire-rod structure, which allows each page to open completely and independently from the next. The forty-one bound books went finally to Drescher, who painted and collaged them in a similar fashion. The price tag ($3,500) reflects the fine line being walked between unique artwork and reproduction.

Although Too Much Bliss is considered an "edition," each copy feels (and in many way is) unique. This is the key to the success of this and other Granary publications, [they]:

Allow the artist to concentrate on imagery, pass the design and production of text and binding onto two highly innovative craftsmen, and leave space for direct embellishment by the artist The result is a book that exceeds the individual talents involved while offering the viewer the highest quality possible.

If there is any objection to be had with Too Much Bliss, it might be due to its lack of narrative. Each page spread is a wonder to behold, but the sequence doesn't build to any climax. To be fair, Drescher's intent was to create a "scrapbook," but inevitably scrapbooks are intellectually disappointing. Luckily, the contents are so evocative and of a singular mind that readers will be compelled to form their own text. Perhaps Too Much Bliss foreshadows the role readers will have to play when hypertext meets the artist's book.       

Granary Books 168 Mercer Street, 2nd floor New York, NY 10012 USAtel 212 337 9979fax 212 337 9774info@granarybooks.com

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