“ABSOLUTELY A THING IN ITSELF… ITS OWN NIGHTMARE, ITS OWN SCREAM”: FIRST EDITION OF WISCONSIN DEATH TRIP, SIGNED BY MICHAEL LESY
LESY, Michael. Wisconsin Death Trip. New York: Pantheon, (1973). Oblong quarto, original purple cloth, original photographic dust jacket. $1800.
First edition of Lesy’s first book, signed by him on the title page, a remarkable photobook on a turn-of-the-century Wisconsin town, with 154 photographs and photocollages, and nine black-and-white illustrations.
“Drawing primarily from an archive of 3,000 images (culled from 30,000 glass-plate negatives) made by town photographer Charles Van Schaick and from newspaper accounts first printed in the Badger State Banner, Michael Lesy lays out an intricate patchwork of fact and fiction whose blighted nexus is the Wisconsin community of Black River Falls between the years 1890 and 1910” (Roth, 222). The offshoot of his doctoral thesis, Lesy’s first photobook established him as a “maverick prodigy” and subsequent works continue his focus on “what Lesy calls ‘demotic photography… [unveiling] a far more wondrous place, greater in extent and breadth and twisted gnarly depth than you could ever imagine” (New York Times). To critic Greil Marcus, “Michael Lesy’s shocking, genre-defying Wisconsin Death Trip… seems absolutely a thing in itself: its own construct, its own nightmare, its own scream” (New York Times). “Ahead of its time… Wisconsin Death Trip is a fiction, neither sociology nor history… Lesy shows, above all, that history, no matter how persuasive… is partial” (Parr & Badger II:217). Basis for the 1999 film of the same title by British filmmaker James Marsh. First edition, cloth; precedes first edition in wrappers published same year. Open Book, 292.
Book fine; tiny bit of dampstaining to verso of bright dust jacket. An exceptional, about-fine copy, scarce signed.