On the Record With Davy Rothbart
Apr 28, 2009 | 20561 views | 1 1 comments | 902 902 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Davy Rothbart has built on empire out of the mistakes of others. His Found Magazine and book series catalogue the notes, drawings, lists, and doodles left behind or lost by one person and found by another. After years of keeping a personal collection of items he found on his own, Davy received an angry note on his windshield meant for someone else which he thought was too outrageous to keep to himself. The note was from an angry girlfriend, but Rothbart was touched by it’s sensitivity. “I showed that note to my friends, and they showed me stuff that they had found.”

After realizing that other people shared his interest with the emotional detritus of strangers, Rothbart and his friends put together a magazine to showcase their most interesting finds. Word spread about the magazine, and soon people from all over the world began sending their own found items to Rothbart, and these pieces have been incorporated into an annual magazine and two popular books.

“I had always thought of finding stuff as my own personal hobby, and now I know it’s a cool thing I share with the people all over the world.”

Eight years later, Rothbart, his brother, and their friends sort through more than a hundred items a week, sent from all over the world to his parent’s house, which is the magazine’s headquarters.

In the decade that it was created, Found Magazine has become a cultural touchstone for lovers of found art, and Rothbart used that cultural notoriety to expand the scope of the series. “People would come up to me and tell me stories about finding stuff, and sometimes the stories would be as good as the items themselves.” Inspired by these stories, he contacted dozens of his favorite writers, musicians and celebrities and asked them to contribute stories of finding items. The book, Requiem For a Paper Bag, is edited by Rothbart and contains contributions from Jonathan Lethem, Sarah Vowell, Devendra Banhart and countless others.

Additionally, Rothbart and his brother are in the midst of their annual Found tour, which will bring them to the Bell House in Gowanus. Rothbart reads Found notes live, while his brother sings songs based on the notes, and each performance features special guests.

After spending the better part of a decade mired in other people’s problems, Rothbart says that he has learned a lot from the things that have been lost or tossed aside, and his conclusions have only been confirmed by the creative work in featured in the new book. “When I’m laughing at a found note, I know that I’ve written something very similar at a time when I though no one could understand. And even though it was written by a complete stranger, they were going through the exact same thing as I was. It’s about connections and recognition.”

Davy Rothbart will be appearing at the Bell House in Gowanus on May at 8 pm. Requiem For a Paper Bag will be available in bookstores next week. (Jeffrey Harmatz)

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April 29, 2009