Bug: the Strange Mutations of the World’s Most Famous Automobile


"A peppy, perspicacious cultural history of the Volkswagen."
-- Kirkus Reviews

"A super job ... Patton (writes) with authority and style ... This first-rate blend of business and social history should hit a chord of nostalgia with many readers. "
-- BookPages

What do Ferdinand Porsche, Adolf Hitler, Henry Ford, and Walt Disney have in common? They've all played a pivotal role in the development of the most produced and best known car of all time: the Volkswagen Beetle. Cultural chronicler Phil Patton brilliantly traces this distinctive car's evolution and its impact beyond the highway and around the world in BUG (Simon & Schuster; $25.00). Patton attests that "the Bug's mental life far exceeds its metal one. The Bug stands as proof that images and ideas swing through culture as if by their own power, evolving, adapting to new environments, latching on to new human champions, infecting new human beings with enthusiasm."

Since 1941, more than 22 million VW Beetles have been built. Originating in Germany, Bugs have been manufactured in Brazil, Australia, and Nigeria, and driven with a passion across the United States. Today, the largest plant is far from the Bug's homeland-in Puebla, Mexico. The New Beetle is a high-tech, high-style homage to the original and was unveiled in 1998. About a hundred miles from the factory, Mexico City is infested with the "old" Bug-nearly two million of the species. In spite of their surface similarities-the signature shape and colors, proudly exaggerated in the 1998 incarnation-the old and the new Beetles are worlds apart, mechanically and culturally.

In captivating detail, BUG follows every turn and twist on the road from conception to icon. From Berlin to Detroit, from Madison Avenue to Hollywood, Phil Patton illuminates how economic and political forces shaped the Beetle-and how the Beetle made its mark on history. Among many remarkable chapters in the car's biography:

    • How Hitler conceived the Beetle as a reliable and affordable "real car" for the German people, how Porsche made the Fuhrer's vision of streamlined function a working reality, and how the Nazis used the revolutionary car as a tool for propaganda.
    • How, in the early 1950s, the Beetle was imported and transformed into an all-American symbol of simplicity, durability, economy, and savvy-thanks to the innovative advertising campaigns of Doyle Dane Bernbach, an ad agency owned by unabashed Jews.
    • How, in the early 1960s, the Bug attached itself to the emerging counterculture by boldly standing apart from the tail-finned monsters of Detroit-and, in 1969, made Disney hip by starring in The Love Bug, which beat out Easy Rider at the box office.
    • How the Beetle earned a place in time capsules and rose up again as a chic embodiment of retro-clinching cameos in Austin Powers' flicks and re-igniting interest in VW car clubs as well as the "Bug-ins" and "Bug-outs" car festivals - and is now populating all roads as a global citizen.

For car mavens, history buffs, and anyone drawn to the unexpected detours of culture, BUG offers a rollicking, riveting, and eye-opening ride. Kirkus Reviews notes that "with brio and dash, Patton charts the long strange trip of the little bug that became a grand cultural totem."

BUG brings a fresh and exciting perspective to a story many think they already know. It has been compared to Cod and Brunelleschi's Dome.



Michael Graves Designs: The Art of the Everyday Object


Melcher Media


"The democratization of design is the great design story of our age, and Graves is the only serious architect who has participated in it with total, unconflicted zeal. Indeed it is no exaggeration to say that he is as much a cause as an effect of this phenomenon."

-- Paul Goldberger, Metropolis (February 2004)


Melcher Media  presents MICHAEL GRAVES DESIGNS: The Art of the Everyday Object (June 2004, $24.95, 128 pages), written by Phil Patton and designed by Pentagram. A world-famous architect, Graves has created more than 1,000 consumer products over the last three decades, elevating everyday objects÷from toasters to toilet brushes÷into icons that have redefined the American home. MICHAEL GRAVES DESIGNS offers an exclusive look at what Patton describes as Gravesā "generous and humanistic approach that links him with sources as varied as the Renaissance, the Bauhaus, and the Arts and Crafts movement."


In recent years, thanks to the commercial success of his landmark collaboration with Target Stores÷a partnership that recently marked its five-year anniversary÷Michael Graves has become a household name, equivalent in the public eye with the very concept of "good design." In this new book he states, "In designing everyday objects, I want to encourage the impression of familiarity and also allow those objects to be seen in a slightly different way." In four original essays÷Figurative Design, Domesticity, Color, Scale÷Graves describes the thinking and themes behind his work, illuminating his unparalleled ability to create eye-catching, witty, and formally beautiful products with popular appeal.


Generously illustrated with more than 200 color images, MICHAEL GRAVES DESIGNS surveys a fascinating career in design and retail. Featured are instantly recognizable projects with the Walt Disney Company and the Italian tableware manufacturer Alessi, maker of Gravesā playful and sophisticated chrome "Singing Bird" teakettle. Since 1985, a staggering amount of two million of these teakettles has been sold worldwide. Also seen are projects with Sunar, Steuben, Belvedere Studio, and Dansk, among others.



Bill Traylor: High Singing Blue


66 pages with 36 color and b&w plates 4to wraps New York Hirschl & Adler Gallery, 1997


Essay in Deep Blues: Bill Traylor 1854-1949

Yale University Press edition, 1998


    * Josef Helfenstein; Edited by Roman Kurzmeyer; Contributions by John Berger, Alfred M. Fischer, Josef Helfenstein, Roman Kurzmeyer, Peter Morrin, Phil Patton, Eugenia Carter Shannon, Lowery Stokes Sims, and Bernadette Walter


Bill Traylor has become an almost mythical figure in the history of American folk art. Born into slavery in 1854, he began to draw only at the age of 82 in 1939, when he moved from the plantation where he was born to Montgomery, Alabama. From his observations on Montgomery’s Monroe Avenue and his memories of his life on the plantation, he created his own original pictorial world. This book presents not only Traylor’s compellingly naive drawings but also fascinating documentary photographs that reveal the daily life of southern blacks—in particular Traylor and his milieu. These photographs, taken by Charles Shannon and by the Swiss journalist Annemarie Schwarzenbach, reminiscent of the works of Walker Evans, capture the atmosphere of Montgomery and rural Alabama at the same time as Traylor was beginning to draw.


The contributors discuss Traylor’s life and work, placing them in their social and historical background. They tell the story of his many years as a poor and illiterate agricultural laborer; his extraordinary foray into the creation of art; his discovery by Charles Shannon, a white artist from the North; and his largely posthumous fame. They explore the relationship of his energetic pictures to African-American music, showing how his images pulse with the sensation of a live blues concert. And they discuss the economic depression and race relations in Alabama during Traylor’s time in Montgomery in the 1930s and 1940s.



Dreamland: Travels Inside Roswell and Area 51

  • " A mind-opening tale of trespass and revelation, of road adventures, technothriller hardware, saucer folks and aerospace outlaws--as well as a daring account of the haunting of our history through the Cold War and beyond by what we have seen, and often wish we had not seen, in the hazardous dreamscape of the American sky." --Thomas Pynchon
  • ". . . a brilliant book in which nothing is as it seems, while everything has a rational explanation, and yet, even so, the 'rational' is its own sort of Dracula." -- John Leonard , The Nation, June 15, 1998
  • "Thomas Pynchon meets Hunter S. Thompson (stylistically) in a novelistic account of the U.S. government's secret air base known as 'Area 51.' . . .Patton. . . .travels beyond the physical location of Area 51 to the psychic location of those who must believe that in the sky exists a world we are not meant to know. . . A fascinating meditation on delusion and desire, this is an American tale." --Kirkus Reviews July 1, 1998
  • "This eloquent and frequently astounding book takes readers along on an audacious, circuitous exploration of the desert landscape in an around the most secret military bases in the American West, and of the psychological landscape of fantasy, lore, and suspicion that surrounds them."
  • "While Area 51 has already gotten lots of ink and airtime, technology reporter Phil Patton has produced the definitive account of this strange corner of the world and of an even stranger corner of the national psyche. (He) brilliantly analyzes"and "vividly reconstructs the real story"; "the larger connections he draws are invariably precise--and unforgettable." -- Outside, August, 1998
  • "A rare literary work" --Jon Katz, HotWired

Made in USA: The Secret Histories of the Things that Made America
A Book of the Month Club Book

  • "With a digger's curiosity and a poet’s pen he has done for the lowest artifacts of life--from easy chairs to the computer mouse--what Hemingway did for the sentence, what Picasso did for the color blue, what John Waters did for polyester."-- The Baltimore Sun
  • "The Margaret Mead of ordinary things,"-- New York magazine
  • "Patton is a Mr. Peabody of relevant information about distinctly American things." --Esquire
  • "Informative and entertaining," -- Witold Rybcyznski

Open Road: A Celebration of the American Highway
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

  • Forbes: "everything a book on such a fascinating subject should be...lyrical and historical, humorously evocative and penetratingly perceptive"
  • Playboy: "insightful and witty...makes you look again, and with fresh eyes, at something that has always been there."
  • Barron's: " Like John McPhee and Tracy Kidder...Patton has an extraordinary ability to breathe life into the mundane and inanimate."
  • New York Times Book Review, Karal Ann Marling: "Put Mr. Patton's lovely little book in the glove compartment of your Toyota and point west...."

Voyager (with Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager)

  • "Voyager is sure to take its place among the enduring classics of adventure literature" --Janet Guthrie, Washington Post Book World
  • A genuinely epic adventure that's well and truly told. --Kirkus