Raised by Wolves is probably the Jim Goldberg book/project, the one by which all others are judged and by which all others fall. I don’t really know… I’d like to see some of his other work, maybe catch an exhibition somewhere, but everything is out of print and exhibitions never seems to come to North Texas (or not that I notice anyway). Anyway. Raised by Wolves (hereafter “RBW“) is the one you (or I, anyway) always hear about. It’s long out of print and, given its fame and scarcity, copies sell for wild prices. As a sort of partial remedy, Goldberg conceived of and produced the Raised by Wolves (Bootleg). Used copies of the Bootleg go for more than the original printing for some reason, and even though copies from the second printing (of which my copy is an example) remain available direct from Goldberg for a comparatively reasonable amount, at time of writing, anyway.


I honestly don’t know quite why I bought a copy of the Bootleg. After all, I own a really beat up, former library copy of the first edition and so why would I “need” one? I think I jumped on it because of the “…numerous surprises…” the publisher blurb claims were “inserted by the artist” and who knows. In any case, when I originally unboxed and flipped through the Bootleg, I was rather underwhelmed.

The full publisher’s blurb reads as follows:

Often considered Goldberg’s seminal project, Raised by Wolves combines ten years of original photographs, text, and other illustrative elements (home movie stills, snapshots, drawings, diary entries, and images of discarded belongings) to document the lives of runaway teenagers in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The book quickly became a classic in the photobook canon and, thus, the original is essentially unavailable.

In the spirit of Tweeky Dave, Goldberg is releasing a xerox style bootleg version of the book with numerous surprises inserted by the artist. At 9×12 inches, the same size as the original, the re-issue features 320 color and black and white pages, perfect bound, with a color softcover.

If you don’t already own a copy of RbW, and if you really want to see the work in full, the blurb won’t matter and you’ll probably buy the Bootleg without a second thought, if you have the hundred bucks (plus shipping) on hand. If you’re on the fence, though, read the blurb more carefully than I did before pulling the trigger.

I saw “Xerox…bootleg” and “numerous surprises” and jumped. When I received the book, I found that surprises numbered exactly 2: one 4×6 print made from an image of Tweaky Dave on a television and one 4×6 print of Beth (aka Echo), clean and playing Nintendo at her Mom’s house. “2” is not “numerous,” but whatever. I also found that “Xerox style” does not mean “xeroxed,” and that the (probably pristine digital) scans have been treated by some sort of grain or reticulation filter that really looks sorta hasty and poorly done. The eggshell paper exacerbates this and really calls out the fakery. If the paper had been more matte, like ordinary printer paper, or, better, ordinary copier paper, it might read more like a photocopy and sorta work better in general, and who knows.

Now. If I’d never seen (and didn’t own) a copy of the first edition, I probably wouldn’t mind the Bootleg. The (faked) photocopy look might not be so distracting, and the addition of a couple of prints, scotch-taped in at appropriate points, would be more exciting. And given that a couple of years have passed between the unboxing and flip-through and this review, I find that I don’t feel as negative now as I remember feeling back when I first saw it, and as I felt every time I saw the book, lying with its original printing cousin on the floor next to my flip-through station for the past 18 or 19 months.

Insofar as my office/library/studio/playroom is in deep need of a general cleanup (and thorough remodel), I figured it was time to get these books back onto the shelf, and the only way to do that is to review the Bootleg, so here we are.

Overall, I guess it’s good that RbW is available in some way, and while I don’t wholly dislike the book, really, the faked xeroxing gets very distracting very quickly, and wholly detracts from the appreciation and study of the book. The reticulation filter that’s been slapped onto everything simply doesn’t work. (Your mileage may, of course, vary, and my opinions are my own.) That said, I agree with Goldberg that Tweaky Dave would probably approve of it, more or less. If the Bootleg is supposed to look like a bootlegged zine version of the original, it fails on a basic technological level. But if it’s supposed to look like a cheap fake, sorta hurriedly produced to make a quick buck and score some tweak, then, well, maybe it sorta works, though the addition of the numerous minimal surprises nearly pushes it into artist’s book, limited-edition territory.

On that point, I wonder if other copies include other prints, more prints, hand drawings or something. Maybe there are a handful of variations? Maybe each one is unique? Maybe the first printing of the Bootleg had a different set (or actually had “numerous”) prints/surprises? If you have a copy of the Bootleg (or if Goldberg reads this as he did my review of the original) maybe leave a comment and let me and other readers know.

Unrated.

Given that the Bootleg edition is the only way (at present) to get a fresh copy of RbW, I wholeheartedly recommend it, though if you’re patient (like I was a few years ago) and regularly search bookfinder, you might find a first edition, original copy for less than the Bootleg, and even a beat-up x-library copy will look clearer and read more legibly than will the Bootleg.

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