Thursday, September 02, 2010

LEGO: A Love Story by Jonathan Bender

Jonathan Bender got his first LEGO set when he was just a child, but gave up playing them when he was still a fairly young teenager. After building the Sears Tower in LEGOs with his Dad when he was younger, encountering that same glued and spray-painted Sears Tower in his childhood toy closet would bring him back to his great love of LEGOs, of course, now he's an adult.

But he's not alone in loving LEGO. There is a group of adults who are a subsection of LEGO fans known as AFOL's, or "Adult Fans of LEGO". These are the people who make LEGO museums and continue to build with the bricks every single day, even though they are over the suggested age on the boxes.

AFOL's were not always popular with the company who made the multicolor bricks, but over time, the Danish company came to appreciate the passion of the AFOL's, even if some of the company's decisions didn't always bring the AFOL's approval, and in fact, often incited scorn.

As Bender slowly grew in his LEGO-constructing skill, he attended more conventions, met more AFOL's and got in touch with some of the men and women who work for LEGO and maintain the LEGO Theme park, both in America and in Denmark. It's the story of a man who tried to understand why LEGOs appeal to so many people, old and young alike, and of his own obsession with the multi-colored bricks.

We follow Bender to LEGO conventions and exhibitions, and of his growing collection of Bricks and kits at home- how he entices his wife, Kate, into entering the world of LEGO and building with him, and how, in some way, their play with LEGOs is a cover up for the child they don't have, and who both want desperately, in their own way.

But when the child comes at last, we are left wondering: will Jonathan and Kate continue to play with and construct LEGOs? or will there simply be too much time spent looking after their child, and will the LEGO bricks hit the wayside until after their son or daughter gets old enough to enjoy them as well?

I found this book fascinating, and the cover picture, showing a portrait of the author reading a book named the same as this book, simply riveting. It's also about what the AFOL's bring to the art and craft of LEGO- a more adult way of constructing, not just what the Kit you bought is supposed to make, but everything from serious art pieces to some that people say went too far, like the man who used LEGO to model the concentration camps of the Nazis.

You get a hint of both the dedication, and plain craziness that can be endemic with AFOLs. Some of the pictures in this book are outright crazy. Others are simply insane, like the 22 foot long Titanic model built out of LEGO bricks. Or the equally huge Chriscraft (including Logo) built out of LEGO. But these things will really make you smile, and also look for other LEGO art online- and let me just say that that will really blow you away.

I found this an amusing, informative and enjoyable book. Even if you don't particularly care about LEGO, reading the book and seeing the pictures provides a thrill, and a laugh, and it will definitely make you want to go out and look at more LEGO art. Recommended.

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