By David A. Carter
Unpaged. Little Simon/Simon & Schuster.
As I carefully open David A. Carter’s engaging new pop-up book, “White Noise,” I’m relieved my son is now 20 years old. If he were a small child, it would quickly become a heap of torn shreds. It’s hard enough for an ambidextrous adult like me not to tear its intricate feats of paper engineering after flipping through it a dozen times, which is what the book demands. This must be why the publisher calls it “A Classic Collectible Pop-Up”: If it survives the wear and tear of the pawing child and adult, it will indeed become a collector’s item.
Each book in the series, which began in 2005 with “One Red Dot,” has been a celebration not only of color, but of the power of abstract art to pique the imagination.
When my son was younger I bought him all of Carter’s pop-up bug books, which are magical. But the entire color series is more than mere pop-up entertainment — particularly “White Noise,” which is a laptop sculpture garden, a romp through cubism and futurism, and a lesson in early-20th-century modernist formalism.
Each spread, designed to make crackly, crinkly, creaky, tinkling or snapping noises as the pages are turned, evokes children’s construction-paper cutouts. As sophisticated as the mechanics are, the primary colors and seemingly random tangles of “bits and pieces,” as one page describes them, combine in such imperfect forms that they give the illusion that anyone could make this book. My favorite pair of pages, labeled “Sir Anthony’s easel and Munari’s white noise,” is a Miró-esque three-dimensional painting. The Munari reference, incidentally, is to Bruno Munari, the Italian Futurist and pioneer of interactive children’s books. (I don’t know who Sir Anthony is, but I’m sure he’s worthy.)
Carter’s creations are akin to fireworks displays, each building in pyrotechnical intensity until the most impressive burst at the end. Although the “rainbow bubble blast,” which starts the book with different-size circles exploding from the page, is by no means modest, the ambitious last pop-up, “
Besides the joy bestowed by Carter’s fancy, “White Noise” comes with two not-so-hidden agendas. It proves that exuberant, nonrepresentational art can be just as thought-provoking as realistic art, and, most important, that print and paper can be as much fun as a computer game, if not more so. Who said print is dead?
One caution to parents: Don’t fold, spindle or mutilate before the children get their turn.
Steven Heller writes the Visuals column for the Book Review.