Brain Pickings

Sorted Books: The Library as a Standup Comedian


What shark attacks and the New York art world have to do with Shakespearean codependence.

Since 1993, artist Nina Katchadourian has been sifting through library collections and remixing their holdings in a delightfully unconventional way. Her ongoing Sorted Books project constructs irreverent, humorous and witty sentences by arranging a stack of books so that their titles can be read from top to bottom or left to right.

Katchadourian has scoured private collections and public libraries alike, for a total of over 130 book clusters to date. Sometimes kooky, sometimes snarky, and always entertaining, her stacked sentences span the entire spectrum of slapstick humor and subtle social commentary.

So witty is Katchadourian’s micro-comedy that we couldn’t restrain a few spontaneous chuckles. But what makes the series so powerful is the way these pithy quips and laconic snippets of narrative allow the viewer to construct complete stories around them, capturing in just a few words entire situational plotlines in this brilliantly innovative storytelling experiment.

Explore the entire Sorted Books for more fun than you ever thought you’d have with Shakespeare.

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