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LEGO: A Love Story

A book by Jonathan Bender

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It's be easier prying apart two Lego bricks than prying this book out of my hands...

  • Apr 6, 2010
Rating:
+5
One of the most vivid sense memories I have from when I was a child is of lying on the floor and trying to pry apart two short, flat Lego planks (2x2s) with my teeth. The tips of my fingers kept painfully slipping off of the bottom piece as my incisors clamped tight on the other, but I needed these separated desperately so that I could finish my masterpiece, a replica of the Airwolf helicopter. When I finally managed to get the two bricks apart (opening just enough space between them to pry them loose with a fingernail), I can still remember unceremoniously spitting out the one between my teeth as I affixed the other to the undercarriage of the helicopter's cockpit section which helped to secure a section of unstable bricks. Though Lego bricks weren't the only toy I played with as a kid, they were the one constant that I've always found myself going back to from around the time I was five, up until today. When I first saw Jonathan Bender's book, Lego: A Love Story, I was hoping that he managed to tap into my lifelong fondness for these universally loved bricks, and I wasn't disappointed in the least.

It seems that when it comes to writing about nostalgia laden topics, two extremes seem to dominate the landscape, the overly saccharine sweet or the dismissive, snarky and sarcastic. Both show a level of fondness, but both are also hard to plow through as any extreme viewpoint can be. It's sort of rare that you can find someone who can manage an evenhanded voice when writing about nostalgia, and Bender has done just that with his first book in which he reacquaints himself with Lego brick building after having put them away almost twenty years ago.

Though I'd hesitate to call myself an AFOL (Adult Fan of Lego), it seem that there hasn't been a time in my life when I have had at least one set worth of Lego bricks hanging around the home or office. I feel like I have a decent handle over the general history of the toy, yet Bender manages to uncover all sorts of interesting tidbits of information, from the split between Lego traditionalists and the customizers, to the rules, habits and vernacular of the dedicated Lego fandom. But it's not just about the hardcore fans. Through his own experience dipping his feet back into the world of Lego, Bender does an excellent job of relating to the common fans by sharing his childhood building stories as well as showcasing his new attempts at building his own creations.

I find it fascinating that Bender approaches the bricks so apprehensively, where he's almost ashamed of sharing his creations for fear of rejection by the experienced fans and masters he's met while researching the book. It's also amazingly heartening to find out that so many of these master builders don't think twice about Bender's novice status, applauding his multicolored delivery vans and biplanes and encouraging him to build bigger and better stuff. This is the wonder of Lego in that at it's core the toy is about creating and learning and it attracts (for the most part) a legion of fans who completely believe in these principles.

At the end of the day Jonathan Bender has done a wonderful job of showcasing Lego in a way that I think anyone would find interesting, from the kid who packed away their bricks when they were twelve to the hardcore fanatic that thinks they know every fact and facet about the toys. It's personable, funny and interesting, not to mention taking an honest and thoughtful look at the nostalgia for Lego without slipping into the too-sweet or too-jaded that we tend to see in similar books.

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More LEGO: A Love Story reviews
review by . May 16, 2010
Early in LEGO: A Love Story, I found myself wondering about author Jonathan Bender's narrative. It is easy to grasp the themes of his book; exploration of the world of Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOL), from the conventions to the build challenges to the interesting people that make up the LEGO community; a well researched look inside LEGO, from the corporate headquarters to the LEGOLAND amusement parks; a personal odyssey as one person attempts to rekindle his love of LEGO and building with bricks while …
review by . June 06, 2010
This book has a fantastic cover that initially drew me to it. The idea of an adult man reconnecting with a childhood love of building bricks was also fascinating.     It's billed as a memoir, or at least that was what I thought it was, and has elements of a "project memoir" wherein the author delves into a certain subject or theme with a goal in mind. In this case, Jonathan Bender wanted to research AFOLs (adult fan of LEGO) as well as become one himself.    But …
review by . April 05, 2010
Back when I was a wee lad... ok, as recently as when I was 28... I've had a fascination for LEGO. Twice in my life I've had large LEGO cities (Legopolis and New Legopolis, for the curious). These contained all the things LEGO people would need to live good lives: parks, buildings, a pizzeria, police, fire fighters, even a lighthouse. I even had a few Old West sets and used those to make a fake movie set, complete with a cameraman, a soundman, a director, and even a catering cart. Eventually I sold …
About the reviewer
Shawn Robare ()
Ranked #1
   I watch a lot of movies, read a lot of books, and buy a lot of useless nostalgia crap. I run Brandedinthe80s.com, am a co-organizer of the Up! Fair (upfair.org), and am one of the co-hosts … more
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Wiki

An adult LEGO fan's dual quest: to build with bricks and build a family

There are 62 LEGO bricks for every person in the world, and at age 30, Jonathan Bender realized that he didn't have a single one of them. While reconsidering his childhood dream of becoming a master model builder for The LEGO Group, he discovers the men and women who are skewing the averages with collections of hundreds of thousands of LEGO bricks. What is it about the ubiquitous, brightly colored toys that makes them so hard for everyone to put down?

In search of answers and adventure, Jonathan Bender sets out to explore the quirky world of adult fans of LEGO (AFOLs) while becoming a builder himself. As he participates in challenges at fan conventions, searches for the largest private collection in the United States, and visits LEGO headquarters (where he was allowed into the top secret set vault), he finds his LEGO journey twinned with a second creative endeavor—to have a child. His two worlds intertwine as he awaits the outcome: Will he win a build competition or bring a new fan of LEGO into the world? Like every really good love story, this one has surprises—and a happy ending.

  • Explores the world of adult fans of LEGO, from rediscovering the childhood joys of building with LEGO to evaluating LEGO's place in culture and art
  • Takes an inside look at LEGO conventions, community taboos, and build challenges and goes behind-the-scenes at LEGO headquarters and LEGOLAND
  • Tells a warm and ...
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