A Life in Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley, is an illustrated biography of an alternately best-selling and dejected author, currently serving time in prison, told through anecdotes about and excerpts from his 101 published books. There’s one thing that sets it apart from most other literary biographies: The subject, Bleu Mobley, is fictional.
It took Warren Lehrer, a writer, illustrator, designer and pioneer of “visual literature,” more than eight years to invent Bleu Mobley and to flesh out his life story and his books. I wrote about the book two years ago when it was still a work in progress. It was just published by GOFF Books, and now Lehrer's fabrication is also leaping off the page.
“In my live appearances, I present myself (as I do in the book) as the editor/compiler of this book on the life and work of Bleu Mobley,” Lehrer says. “I explain that I am a longtime admirer of Bleu’s work, am fascinated by life his story, and honored (and surprised) that he agreed to my doing a book on him.”
Lehrer’s performance begins with an audio recording of Bleu whispering into a microcassette recorder from the darkness of his prison cell. Lehrer animated the words through kinetic typography so audiences get a visual feeling of what it’s like inside Bleu’s insomniac mind. The audio quality is poor, but even so, “Some people have remarked on how similar Mobley’s voice is to mine, and that we have other things in common, too,” Lehrer says. “But in a lot of ways we’re very different. He never had a father, for instance. He wrote 101 books. I’ve only written 10. I may be obsessed with my subject, and bursting with all things Bleu Mobley, but I’m not confused about where I end and he begins.”