Bowie, The American Library Association, and The Idiot

In 1985 the American Library Association began its READ celebrity poster campaign. Since then, 182 posters have been produced. David Bowie was the eighth to pose for a poster, back in 1987.

It’s a strange pose. He looks like he is in mid-air, not floating, though — there’s too much tension in his limbs — more like he has jumped very high off a trampoline, bending a leg midair, all the time absorbed in  Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. The jacket, chosen I suppose for its big R (R is for reading?) is by Roots, which seems a bit like a Canadian LL Bean, but with an emphasis on leather gear. Is the image on the shirt of a glam rock idol?

In 1987, Bowie was 40. He could pass for a high school kid here.

Bowie does read the Russian classics so choosing The Idiot makes sense for that reason. Of course, Bowie fans know another: Iggy Pop’s album The Idiot, produced by Bowie in 1977, which, according to Bowie and Iggy biographer Paul Trykna, was named after, you guessed it, Doetoevsky’s novel.

Andrew Kent shot the cover for Iggy Pop’s The Idiot, which like the cover for Bowie’s “Heroes,” (1977)  photographed by Masayoshi Sukita, was inspired by the painting Roquairol (1917) by the German Expressionist Erich Heckel.








I haven’t been able to find the name of the photographer of the 1987 American Library Association’s poster, but it was produced a decade after Bowie was working with Kent and Sukita. Still, its angularity suggests these two artists’ works.

Andrew Kent, but the way, is the photographer responsible for what I consider some of the very best images of Bowie from the Thin White Duke/Station to Station era, including this one.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s