I recently bought my second copy of Shopgirl. (No, it’s not great writing, but I like it.) I bought it because it was at a used bookstore and didn’t have the awful movie poster book cover that I was stuck with when I first read the novella. It’s got that deckle edge that I love and does that classy thing that some paperback designs do where it folds over like its own hardcover jacket. It was kinda like seeing an old friend come out of rehab. This is how I wanted to know you.
I applied the same sort of selectivity to Never Let Me Go. We watched it recently and though Andrew Garfield’s performance wasn’t entirely consistent nor convincing, I love love love Carey Mulligan and there’s something very satisfying about seeing Keira Knightley all sickly instead of gorgeous. The story gripped at my heart in the way that I like and I decided I had to find the book. Off to Amazon I went. (Kathy H. is now one of my favorite literary characters.)
As with any well-received title, Never Let Me Go has been printed and reprinted numerous times. The prices on Amazon were all pretty comparable within their categories (new vs. used), so I moved on to the next deciding factor in which edition to buy: not down-to-the-penny price, but cover art.
Why would you read from these:
When you could read from this:
(Yeah, sorry about all the obvious Amazon screencaps.)
Book covers, like movie posters, have gone the way of over-researched, underfunded promotional production. Look at how this 1958 Saul Bass Vertigo movie poster got overprocessed into hit-you-over-the-head, bull’s eye effect DVD cover:
Christian Annyas has a roundup of twelve more in his blog.
Kind of sad, isn’t it? I know the reasoning for spelling things out for the sake of promoting a message, but our culture is so mini-byte-driven, so short-form, that we want all methods of communication to think for us. Email subject lines get distilled down to a scientifically validated five words each, and movie trailers are whittled down to encapsulate the funniest moments out of two hours. It could also be the ebbing faith in the print industry. I don’t expect there’s much of a budget these days for gorgeous book jackets and the artists who could make them.
Just look at the cover of Art and Madness:
It’s a memoir chronicling sexism in creativity straight from the fifties and sixties, and here it was wrapped in some emo high schooler’s final project, a tribute to My Chemical Romance.
If we’re all going to go the digital route in reading and buying publications, let’s at least start demanding really cool and well-executed animated book covers or something. Great writing deserves great graphics.