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Utopia...or Bust!

Philip Garner's Utopia or Bust
Garner, Philip.
Utopia...or Bust!: Products for the Perfect World
New York: Delilah
Communications, Ltd., 1984

(Garner's brief analysis of Picasso's Guernica is not to be missed)

This book is a sequel to one of my first tacky treasures, Philip Garner's Better Living Catalog. My review (which follows this entry), written several years ago, was tough in cheek, since I hadn't actually used any of his products. Part of the charm of the book was the juxtaposition of optimistic ingenuity with a state of denial of the sheer impossibility of the items. Yet his ideas stand the test of time: in this era of high gas prices, who wouldn't like a mini-car built from a grocery cart. Urban dwellers are often warned of theives targetting iPods, but they wouldn't dare steal the Woofer, which was basically a boom box strapped to a dog's back.

In Utopia...or Bust!, Garner becomes a bit more theoretical in his approach (or more surreal, depending on your point of view). Witness the "Waterpicasso," which blends great art with a mundane task. He predicts huge moving sidewalks connecting major cities, with the suggestion that "a sidewalk that doesn't move isn't worth its weight in cement." Clearly, this is a man ahead of his time. The final section of the book is a group of rough sketches of ideas that one might expect to see in his next book, such as the zoo-kini and the Laz-R-Boy contact-disintegrator toilet. But given that it's been over twenty years since the publication of Utopia...or Bust!, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Copyright © 2000-2010, Julie Mangin. All Rights Reserved. April 2, 2016