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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Davy Rothbart
Found (Anthology)
Simon & Schuster

Rating: 9/10 ?


January 23, 2004
There is a set of popularly recited myths and taboos about sampling in music - that appropriating and reassembling something apart from its original purpose is somehow not a creative act. The finders at FOUND Magazine - who seem to be musically-attuned people themselves - would surely dismiss such ideas as the nonsense they are.

DJs and producers search through endless stacks of records to find the perfect obscure, forgotten sample and then refashion it for some new purpose, one that is often divorced from its original context. That echoing drum break, that frog-like saxophone hiccup, that lamented call of lost love - removed from whatever original purpose it had and reincarnated as living sound. FOUND's mission is different, but the basic idea is the same: take some forgotten, misdirected or unwanted artifact and breathe new life into it. 

FOUND (which was previously featured in an LAS feature, which you can read here) has operated for several years as a magazine fueled by creator Davy Rothbart's obsession for finding scraps of people's lives. Rothbart hit a gold mine when fellow finders began to send in accidentally discovered objects (usually, but not always, written documents or photographs). The magazine displays them in its pages in a pre-Internet, cut-and-paste underground zine style. After years of doing the magazine and building a broad readership, Rothbart set out to create an anthology of sorts in the form of the FOUND book. After many sleepless nights, Rothbart has delivered the goods.

The 252-page book, subtitled The best lost, tossed, and forgotten items from around the world, follows the same format as the magazine, reissuing many of the classic finds for newcomers while also compiling hundreds of new ones to satisfy longtime readers. The result is an odd collection of objects that express the full range of human emotion and thought. Names, numbers and addresses are usually removed, but the found items are largely unedited. It is the glimpse into the inner workings of a stranger's life that is so often promised and so rarely delivered in reality television.

Reality shows are touted as unscripted - there are no writers. The writers, of course, have been replaced with editors, people who simply take the raw footage and mold it into whatever pre-determined story arc is required for the format. What's more, reality show participants, weaned on years of The Real World, play to up to previously-created personas. They know they are on television, and they intensify the sex, the conflict, the drama - because that is what they are supposed to do. In sharp contrast are the items in FOUND magazine, which are completely unedited and unplanned. They are usually intended for one person or for a small group, written by people who never intended to do anything more than advertise "3 bad rooms" for rent, harshly criticize an art theory teacher or find a lost jacket.

Of course, there is an element of control in the decision to send an item to FOUND, and the magazine's decision to publish it, and the subsequent organization of the printed result. But beyond that, the found items are an exceedingly raw glimpse into the lives of others.

Some finds are so unguarded and personal they are almost painful to read. In Rothbart's world, there is no shortage of stories of pain or poverty, of desperation. Heartbreak and family problems are two of the most common themes among found items. But there are also the humorous ones ("You have to make up your mind Mr. Dickens, twas either the best of time or the worst of time, it could scarcely be both"), and the confounding ("Please do not bounce head!" and "It stayed on the grill bitch!").

But readers and finders always seem to be laughing with the authors of these notes, rather than at them. FOUND does not indulge in the editorial smirk of reality programming. Key to reality programming since The Gong Show (or the circus sideshow, for that matter) is the opportunity for audiences to look down their noses at those who are supposedly inferior, allowing them to feel better about themselves. FOUND items do not exude this sense of superiority, and when Rothbart occasionally interjects commentary to match an item, it is in a good-natured, along-for-the-ride, Dave Attell fashion.

Rothbart has always maintained that the true value of finds is not observational humor or leering voyeurism, but rather the chance to empathize with a stranger. The reader does not laugh at the writer because they are baring their heart in a ridiculous love letter - the reader feels something because they too have bared their heart in a ridiculous love letter. And if they laugh at it as well, they are also laughing at themselves.

The volume's bookends are two cleverly placed notes, the first solemnly includes the phrase "This book I quite seriously believe all people should read," while the second states "Book was OK - very informative - if bored - throw it out. Love Mom." It's a charmingly self-deferential and inconsequential coda for the book, one that alleviates some of the tension from the more cathartic finds and leaves the reader smiling. Throw it out, indeed.

Reviewed by Erick Bieritz
Erick Bieritz lives in Chicago, where is usually either very hot or very cold. He was the brainchild behind EPMD, where he wrote about EPs and singles for LAS, looking for overlooked or underappreciated non-album releases.

See other reviews by Erick Bieritz

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