Imagine a world devoid of people. Now, subtract cars. Did your mind go blank too? Picture the ensuing stillness to be found in the midst of our cities. Now, convert your image to grayscale, adding slight artistic flourishes of color if you choose. What you're left with might resemble one of Paul Madonna's All Over Coffee strips, a project he's been publishing in the San Francisco Chronicle since 2004. But you might already know this.
In 2007, City Lights published the first collection of All Over Coffee, representing the first 300 or so strips (but containing just over 160 of them). The series has become much loved for its beautiful ink and ink-washed renderings of desolate yet detailed urban landscapes, most notably of San Francisco (but also including New York, Paris, Barcelona, and Tokyo, to name a few). These images are juxtaposed with various forms of text: aphorisms, autobiographical stories, flash fiction, and thoughts -- including both questions and answers, and even mini manifestos on the creative process -- that weave together a narrative as thrilling, revelatory, endless and humbling as an aimless walk through the city. And to read through each page is to occupy a space left for us to inhabit.
This month, City Lights published the second collection, Everything Is Its Own Reward. The book not only has more pages (220+), but the pages are also slightly larger. In this case, bigger is definitely better.
Immediately apparent is that all identifying features have been removed from the pages in Everything Is Its Own Reward: the strips are not numbered, dated, or titled, as they are in the first collection (though this information is available in the back of the book). There are no digitized borders and very few text boxes placed over the strips; instead, the drawings are scanned directly into the computer and printed as-is. A major barrier between reader and setting has been removed, and we are drawn directly into the strip.