John McWhinnie was one of the good ones, and I was lucky enough to consider him a friend and mentor. I met him when I was working at a restaurant when I was in high school, eventually leading to work at GHB and a relationship that I still hold close to my heart. I could write volumes about what John means to me, personally, professionally and artistically. Hell, I even have a tattoo that is partially inspired by a conversation we had about a Ruscha painting when I was 21. Instead I offer you this interview. There will never be another one quite like him. You will be missed.
John McWhinnie is a rare book dealer, publisher, and a true fan of far-out counter cultures and ephemera.
This is an interview and some photos i did with John for a magazine that went out of business before it was published. Enjoy. !!!
PS-How did you get started in the rare book game? What do you like about it and what do you find challenging or frustrating about it?
JM- I got into rare books through the back door that most rare book dealers secretly enter: book collecting and academia. I was finishing my doctorate and found that I had become increasingly bored with my job as an adjunct professor. I was also on a fellowship that, while generous by academic standards, left me strapped for cash. I decided to sell parts of my book collection, a collection I had assembled through assiduous cultivation of a whole range of miscreants: from flea market dealers to upscale book dealers across the country.
My collection was well catalogued and ready to sell. Years before I had spent a stint at the rare book and manuscript library at Columbia University. It was while cataloguing the letters of Tennessee Wiliams, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, among others, that I realized that most text-book history is a crock of shit; that real history lies embedded in the actual historical documents I was reading and cataloguing. I remember one particluar moment I had while cataloguing an early draft of Tennessee Williams Streetcar.