Book Review: Elgin Park by Michael Paul Smith

 Well, the full title is actually Elgin Park: Virtual Memories of Midcentury America at 1/24th scale. Michael Paul Smith Is the kind of person that makes you wonder why you aren’t more productive with your time. 

I mean, maybe Elgin Park won’t change the world – but it does make you look at yourself and ask “am I doing anything creative and awe inspiring?”

This book is truly fascinating. It would be quite enough to see the amazing pictures that Mr. Smith has created of a model city at a 1/24th scale. But to look at the background, the setting up of each scene, and to get into his mind a bit makes the book well worth reading. The minutiae of putting together some of the models is really amazing (like using ear bud wires for large cables). 

I was really surprised, but reader comments from the original Flickr account (where he posted these pictures) also added to the text. I thought they might be filler and take away from it, but I guess they did a good job in pulling comments that would add to the book. (Not least because Smith makes interesting responses to a lot of the comments.)

It almost makes me want to draw, model, and build my childhood home. Almost. I don’t think I want to spend that much time with my childhood. 

And putting a backstory to the pictures of the people in the town just make them that much more interesting. He has some flair for writing, too. On page 129: 

Mimzi Cauldwell’s 1936 Lincoln Zephyr, basking at the water’s edge, has the appearance of some art deco amphibian that might at any moment glide gracefully into the river or quietly slip away through the underbrush. In the humid sunlight, the world is reflected and stretched along the vehicle’s sensuous curves, and its color is enhanced in such a way that it resembles a ripe piece of fruit, ready to be picked. 

Mimzi declared the automobile to be “the cat’s pajamas.” And who could argue with that?

Even the interview questions in the back round out the book. They are less interesting than the pictures themselves, but give fascinating insight to his background and inspiration. 

I don’t know the dimensions of this book, but it would make an excellent coffee table book. It’s not really a book to be devoured in a single setting, but one to be absorbed over time. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Animal Media Group for a copy in exchange for an honest review.


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