May 30th, 2010

new romantic.

Review: LEGO: A Love Story by Jonathan Bender (TSS)

LEGO: A Love Story

by Jonathan Bender


At some point in their childhood, every kid in the US of A plays with LEGO bricks.  Right?  My brother had a big old tub of LEGO toys that he kept under his bed, and we would build cities and spaceships and make up stories about pirates and knights and astronauts.  It was friggin’ AWESOME. Whenever I dreamed about my future dream house (the one I’d live in after I grew up), I always included a LEGO room, where I would be free to build to my heart’s content.  Then I got a little older and LEGO blocks were evicted from the house of the future in favor of an art studio, a walk-in closet and the expansion of the library.  (The My Little Pony stable also failed to make the cut.)  I had entered into the ‘Dark Ages’, the time when children put their LEGO bricks in the back of the closet and forget about them.


Jonathan Bender emerged from his own Dark Age the year he turned thirty.  At first he was content to use the old bricks that had belonged to his brother-in-law, but soon he’s buying bricks in bulk and picking out prepackaged sets for himself and his wife.  In a quest to better understand the appeal of LEGO and the AFOL (Adult Fans of LEGO) subculture, Bender attends fan conventions and visits the Toy and Plastic Brick Museum, which houses the largest private collection of LEGO in the US.  He visits LEGO’s corporate headquarters in Denmark and goes behind-the-scenes at Legoland California. The fonder Bender grows of his new hobby, the more he longs for a child to share it with, and his difficulties he and his wife have getting pregnant are interwoven in the narrative.


If you ever played with LEGO bricks as a kid, you’ll find something interesting in this book.  Bender’s enthusiasm for his subject radiates from every page, and his willingness to share both his triumphs (designing a zombie-slaying schoolbus for Brickcon 2008) and blunders (giving a craptacular gift at a LEGO white elephant exchange) provide very funny vignettes.  But the book is extremely disorganized.  A single chapter will jump from an interview with an AFOL to Bender’s childhood to history of LEGO bricks.  I found that if I read a chapter or two at a time, it was OK; but trying to read the entire book in an entire sitting was too much.  It reads like a blog.


Bender’s inclusion of his wife in his new hobby was sweet.  Whenever he brought her up I’d think “Aaaw…isn’t that cute.”  But the attempt to draw a parallel between his quest to rediscover LEGO and their difficulties conceiving were awkward and greatly added to the book’s rambling lack of focus. 


But hell.  I thought it was fun.  I want to go play with LEGO again.  I wonder if my brother still has our bricks?



My brother and I had both of these guys.  They had epic battles against each other.


 Man, LEGO people (minifigs) have come a long way since my childhood....
Photos of LEGO minifigs gleefully stolen from Brickipedia.


To read more about LEGO: A Love Story, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.