Videosyncratic by Jon Spira
Videosyncratic is a book that used to be a video store. I know that sounds confusing but its true. In the book author Jon Spira documents the rise and fall of home video culture and video rental stores as well as his personal involvement in the industry, first as a movie lover, then a VHS rental customer, becoming a video rental store cashier and finally as the owner of a video store named, you guessed it, Videosyncratic. All of this takes place over the span of 20 years from the ’80s to the oughts in London, England. Surprisingly, with as fast as technology and society has changed, even though this is recent history, in some ways it is sadly like reading about events on another planet (possibly one in a galaxy far, far away) as we have become so removed from the lifestyles and daily happenings of the latter days of the previous century.
“Regeneration is inevitable, important and increasingly sad as you get older and see your world pass into the hands of the next generation.” The stories Jon tells are as hilarious as they are informative and even, at times as above, filled with wistful longing. The book itself is the exact size, shape and image of an old VHS cassette, making it a clever but compact and quick read of almost 400 small but packed pages. Evidently the book was a Kickstarter project, but I just learned of it when Amazon kindly suggested it to me, presumably as I have ordered about a half dozen other books on video and VHS culture in the past. It is worth noting that Jon is not only a fan of movies and video stores, he is also a director himself, having made 2015’s Elstree 1976, a niche documentary on the making of Star Wars and the impact it had, all told from the point of view of the actors who played secondary and tertiary characters in the film.