What can I say about Lubin Tales, created by Gerry King (and “presented to you by his alter ego, Doctor Zero Lubin”)? It’s quirky; it is both rich and minimalist; it’s a small hardback book containing text, colour and black and white plates and a sweet little integrated maroon ribbon bookmark like a diary or a prayer book. Unfortunately that doesn’t really describe it that clearly: perhaps a more back to basics approach is required. Let me try again.
Lubin Tales is a pocket sized collection of flash and micro fiction and the musings of “artist and performer” Gerry King and some of his photographs and the illustrations of Louise Burston, and that’s a lot of ands. It is, however, definitely made up of both words and pictures.
This is a book where the whole is potentially greater than the sum of its parts. The thirteen segments within it contain tales, anecdotes and images of a boxer called Paul King, an obsession with the 1950s and vignettes of a life lived on the margins of rundown seaside towns in the South of England. In terms of the prose, it is polished, somewhat random and frequently inconclusive in the absurdist style of things.
I press-ganged an artist friend of mine to comment on the visual aspects of the book. He was quite taken with the black and white photographs of urban decay, but took exception to “the poodle stuff” (the story “The Poodle Faker” is accompanied by an illustration of a besuited man wearing a fake poodle head–don’t ask). He also claimed to like the concept behind some of the pieces, but then wandered off into the dirty back streets of semiotics and lost me completely.
From my friend’s divided approach to the artwork, I’m tempted to say that this is a book you’ll either love or loathe, immediately get the point of or reject totally, but that wouldn’t do justice to my friend’s overall ambivalence to the work (or mine, either). There is much to admire here, but then some of the quirky just felt quirky for quirky’s sake. Yes, in the end, the whole does out-box the sum of its parts and the iconic images of “La Reine Restocrat” barbers’ chairs, “blood red and cream” do combine with the text to create a sense of a down at heel past, the “1950s Cadillac cool” that probably inhabits the same dubious back streets as my friend’s take on semiotics, but…
In summary, Lubin Tales is what it is. In the words of Studs Terkel, who haunts many of the pages of this little book, “take it easy…but take it.” Go figure.