caterpilar



Being an unorthodox dog, I have decided to make my various annual resolutions at times other than the hypothyrodially challenged first of January.  For me the post-holiday landscape in Manhattan is often too dismal to behold and so filled with post-feast indigestion that trying to get anything done is near impossible.  Therefore, I’ve decided to implement at least one resolution in the glorious New York autumn before October is even done: to wit, Yours Truly has begun to venture out into the web and offer his two cents on various blogs.

To this end, I joined book blogs and soon found myself voicing an opinion about the importance of book covers.  I pass that opinion on here because I surprised myself with observations that I think may be entertaining and illuminating to the readers of this blog about both the literary ideals and the publishing realities of cover creation.  Here is that post pasted below and linked here:

Speaking from my amanuensis’ J.F.’s experience with his own published books, the ideal situation is when the person designing the cover has read and genuinely understood the work and attempted to capture its spirit on the cover. I use the word “spirit” because, after all, no book can be entirely captured by a visual or tactile interpretation (just as no book can ever be fully realized by a movie and certainly not by the new-fangled “vook”), but what can be captured, I think, is that distinct spirit of the work, even perhaps the strong suggestion of the particular “universe” the author has created within the pages. The covers of a re-release of Evelyn Waugh’s works a decade or go in which the color scheme, typography and use of Waugh’s own sketching style went a long way to promise that universe. Less successful were the softback re-releases of many of Graham Greene’s entertainments that emphasized the pulpy over the literary (much as a 1960s dime back of Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust I once came across at a Manhattan sidewalk sale (snout level) ignored that book’s complexity in favor of the lurid threat of midnight violence in the Deep South with the hint of a bodice ripping somewhere in the dusty background).
One other observation I’d like to add is that many readers don’t realize just what little control authors have over the way their books turn out (i.e., cover art, marketing, even genre) and, on behalf of those authors who at this moment are cursing themselves in dim garrets for not seeing certain publisher warning signs as their books were improperly designed, I’d implore all readers to take the cover and the marketed genre seriously, but the words inside the cover even more so. Still, a well-done cover for an excellent book is a joy to behold.

To add some more support to this comment, please compare the above images of the covers of the translated version of A Dog About Town and A Dog Among Diplomats published in Japan with the American covers in the sidebar to the right.  Am I big in Japan?  Perhaps, but in a decidely more Hello-Kitty way than the Hello-Dante-Loving-Skeptic-With-A-Falstaffian-Appetite-For-Spare-Ribs image that I myself perceive when chancing to pass a mirror in Manhattan.

On a technical note, I believe that the blog comments have finally been fixed.  I look forward to everyone’s thoughts.

October 25th, 2009
11:47 pm

2 Responses to “Do Book Covers Matter and What Do They Say?”

  1. rhapsodyinbooks Says:

    Frankly Randolph, I prefer the Japanese cover for A Dog About Town because it doesn’t feature you smoking. Plus there is a pleasingly cutesy, vulnerable, puppyish look about it. Furthermore, the Japanese covers reflect the plots more accurately. I don’t intend to demean your Hello Dante nature by complimenting the Hello Kitty look, but, to tell you the truth Randolph, we females like cutesy, vulnerable-looking puppies, even if they be sentient and educated.

  2. Randolph Says:

    Dear Rhapsody:
    While I smart at the notion that there isn’t some appeal in my more dignified pose on the American cover of Books 1 and 2, I will concede that perhaps the more formal portraiture prevented Yours Truly from expressing some of his genuine vulnerability and certainly exposed him to murderous levels of passive smoke.

    And, yes, the first cover of the Japanese version does at least depict my Hello-Kitty persona hard at work doing necessary “cereal work” at the table to assist Harry. As for your thoughts on the attractions of puppyhood, I can happily report that the pre-quels that J.F. is currently at work on (the very ones which will appear on this site first) will feature me in puppy form (the young and happy years of our little clan!).
    Sincerely,
    Randolph