Bleu Mobley began his life in a housing project in Queens, the son of a mentally ill mother and an absent father. He went on to become a journalist, experimental novelist, professor, self-help guru, pop-culture pundit, unindicted prisoner, and the author of 101 books over a 50-year career. Also, Mobley is pure fiction.
Mobley is the invention of the writer and designer Warren Lehrer. A Life in Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley is part fictional memoir, part artist retrospective. Mobley whispers his story into a cassette recorder from his jail cell; as he recounts his life, we see jackets for all 101 books. Mobley covers almost every literary genre imaginable. How Bad People Go Bye-Bye is a pop-up book for kids about the history of capital punishment; Yes I Can’t is a slacker’s guide on how not to accomplish your full potential; the oversized Narcissistic Planet Disorder is the tale of a planet out of control. Lehrer, a designer, artist, and writer (and brother of WNYC’s Brian Lehrer), created each book cover, along with the accompanying catalog descriptions, reviews, and excerpts.
Lehrer has been writing and designing books for more than 30 years, but A Life in Books is his first novel. He admits that some aspects of Mobley’s career and personality are familiar. “Bleu Mobley started with my experiences and background to a certain extent, but there’s all kinds of things in his story and his character that really, more and more, as I wrote this that departed from me,” Lehrer tells Kurt Andersen. “He’s much more interesting that I am.”
Slideshow: Bleu Mobley’s bibliography
DelphiniumismArtist: Ryan Ross SmithAlbum: Delphiniumism
for guitar and synthesizer 1Artist: Ryan Ross SmithAlbum: if you want something done, sentimentality is effective
CarrousselAlbum: La Rainbow Toy OrchestraLabel: Error Lo-Fi Recordings
The Pages Of My MindArtist: Ray CharlesAlbum: From the Pages of My MindLabel: Columbia Records