If you are looking for a gift for someone this Christmas or just in the mood to buy something for yourself, my number one choice (and favorite picture book of the last year) would be Kirk Demarais’s:Â Life of the Party: A Visual History of the S. S. Adams Company.
S.S. Adams was the mastermind behind many of the most popular gag/novelty pranks of the last century, including the Joy Hand Buzzer, the Dribble Glass, the Snake Can, the Squirting Nickel, the Bug in an Ice Cube, the Exploding Cigar, and hundreds of others. Â As one writer put it,Â “The man’s rivals must have felt toward him as other dramatists have felt about Shakespeare.” I’m not exactly sure who his rivals were – other fart-cushion manufacturers, maybe? – but the sentiment is right on.
This book is treasure and nostalgia all wrapped up in one, like reading the back of an old comic book and trying to decide whether to order the vacuum cleaner hovercraft or a new pair of X-ray specs. Â The images are often enlarged so you can really appreciate the original art and packaging genius of Louis M. Glackens*, the cartoonist who Adams hired to bring all of his products to life.Â I also confess a soft spot for the personal touch of ordering it direct from the factory in Neptune, New Jersey.Â I wish all books were like this.