Coffee Table Book Proposals: A TFT Nonfiction Books Series

This is a series in which I pitch mock coffee table book ideas to an imaginary editor. The pitches are in monologue format. Coffee table books are nonfiction; they are also a strangely fascinating idea. The series will be ongoing and periodic, occurring whenever inspiration strikes. This is the second in the series.

Book Title: Grand Openings

Book Premise: A book of photographs of grand opening events at places like nail salons and laundromats

Coffee Table Book Proposals: A TFT Nonfiction Books Series

So here’s an idea: Grand Openings. Can’t you just see that in Technicolor on a large-scale hardcover? Bam! Grand Openings! Paired with a shot of an empty liquor store or dime store or Sell-It-On-Ebay storefront or nail salon or Indian restaurant or copy center or Laundromat or something. Whatever shot it was, the place would have to be empty, or at least empty enough to feel empty when you looked at the picture of it. Yes, photos of those places—those places you only walk by when you’re alone, those places that have banners hanging across their windows or their back walls or the counter by the cash register, banners announcing some “Grand Opening.” The shot on the cover—every shot in the book—should have a banner somewhere in it that says “Grand Opening,” and every shot should be empty or as-good-as-empty. Otherwise the picture would not belong here, it would belong in some other book, a book about crowds or proven success. These photographs would be about from the outside-in. You, looking at the book, would be looking in a window and see only florescent lighting and the smell of waxed linoleum and some guy in a turban sitting on folding chair talking on his cell phone. An Edward Hopper aesthetic for the new millennium. I’ll bet you the big money photograph would be of a Laundromat. It would have to be a night shot. The Laundromat would still be open. Maybe it could be one of those 24-hour places. Only one or two machines would be in use. The few people doing laundry would not be looking at each other. One would be reading a celebrity magazine and the other, checking out her cuticles. I was thinking this shot should go towards the end of the book. Not at the tail end, but towards the end, a late climax. The text for each photograph would just be the city where these places do business: New York City, Detroit, Tallahassee, Memphis, Houston, Seattle. You don’t need to know much more about these places, do you? It’s an urban book. No, not a doctor’s office type book, but maybe one to read when you’re waiting for your date to finish blow-drying her hair. This is a book about emptiness, you see, it’s about the American Dream. It’s a thumb-through type deal. It belongs on a table. A coaster, occasionally. I’m not talking about anything gross here, just something for people to look at when they have nothing else to do.

Nell Boeschenstein’s essays have appeared on The Rumpus and The Morning News, and her journalism has appeared in various alt-weeklies. She teaches in the Undergraduate Writing Program at Columbia Univ ...read more

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