This is something rather special. It’s also possibly one of the oddest-looking books you’ll likely ever see. From Taschen comes a mass-market version of the hugely expensive multi-volume making of 2001 set that came out last year and quickly sold out (I think it was something like £500- this edition loses some volumes but is around £30 on Amazon so much easier on the wallet). The odd shape arises from the books designer’s attempt to emulate the shape of the monolith, which results in it being very tall and not very wide- in the photo above I’ve placed the 2001 Blu-ray alongside to give some idea of its size and dimensions. The layout isn’t landscape as you might have expected (considering the widescreen/cinerama dimensions of the film) but instead its actually portrait. The photo shows the books slipcover, the spine of the book within is actually running alongside that ‘The Making of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey’ title.
Here’s another photo, this showing the embossed front of the book out of its slipcover. You can certainly see the inspiration of the monolith here, and perhaps also perceive some of the difficulties reading it. I know that it has come under fire in some quarters (I think Stateside, Amazon has actually temporarily withdrawn it from sale due to consumer complaints). I suppose it all depends on your point of view. Yes it is a bit ungainly to read and how/where it sits on the bookshelf I’m not sure, but even fans of the film will attest to the fact that 2001 is a rather peculiar movie. Its unique in cinema. Its a work of art and possibly the finest science fiction film ever made, a film as confusing and infuriating as it is enthralling and mind-boggling. It seems only fitting that this huge book documenting its creation is possibly just as strange and confusing and infuriating depending on the readers preferences. More than any of that though, its a huge treasure-trove of previously unseen behind-the-scenes imagery and preproduction artwork. In a crazy way it just makes perfect sense that this book is the way it is; I really like it. It just, well, suits 2001.
Hopefully it will make a bit more sense with some photos of the book open, to give some idea just how special it is. You can easily see here the odd proportions of the book, and also just how rare some of the imagery (sourced from the Kubrick Archives) is. Here you can see a spread of pre-production paintings of the Discovery with some incredibly sharp stills from the set to show how close the sets were to the paintings. Note that the page on the right actually folds out. There are many, many fold-outs throughout the book. I haven’t taken a picture of this exact foldout, but it actually shows set images that correspond to the paintings of the Discovery bridge on the page on the left (the next photo will show a fold-out properly open). Some fold-outs involve more pages and open out two or three times wider. From whats happening over at Amazon it would seem the format of the book is pissing some readers off but yeah, I think it makes things interesting. The photos I’ve taken may make it seem that the book is a purely visual exercise but there is a lot of text by Piers Bizony at the start of each chapter that will delight readers after more meat than just imagery, and captions for the imagery given ample explanation of what we are seeing.
So here’s that other photo, this time showing on-set photos of the Discovery docking bay, with a fold-out (this time the page on the left) spread open to hopefully show a bit clearly how it works. For myself, just the quality and content of the photos is enough- its fascinating to see this stuff considering the secrecy that always surrounded 2001. The sight of 1960s tech and fashion everywhere in the behind the scenes shots just reminds me of the incredible technological achievement this film was.
Anyway, I’m still working my way through its 560 pages, but thought I’d post this for fans of the film so suggestions for Christmas presents can go out while there’s plenty of time. The books format may be open to contentious debate but I can assure fans of the film that regardless, the actual content is astonishing (I just saw a spread of the eight-foot space station miniature prior to filming and spent a long time just staring at it, amazed. And then read about the miniature being junked into a scrap yard and wrecked by kids.We Brits know how to treat our Cinematic History, eh? Incredible). Its an excellent book and easily recommended for fans of the film.