The clothing of books
If the process of writing is a dream, the book cover represents the awakening.
Book jacket is not only the texts first clothing but also it’s first interpretation - both visual and for sales promotion.
A cover is a sort of translation, an interpretation of my words in another language- a visual one.
It has become a label that lists the ingredients.
Books come to stand for various episodes in our lives, for certain idealisms, fillies of belief, moments of love. Along the way they accumulate our marks, our stains, our innocent abuses- they come to wear our experience of them on their covers and bonding like wrinkles on our skin. - Richard Baker
One the one hand, I want to desperate to belong, to have a clear identity. On the other, I refuse to belong, and I believe that my hybrid entity enriches me.
There are some authors who can write anything, a blog, an opinion or even gibberish and i will lap it up. Jhumpa Lahiri is no exception. This tiny book of 70 pages and big font is an essay packaged in a pretty clothing (pun intended). It talks about book covers comparing it to humans and clothing, our identities and culture thru clothing and of course the subject of books and the impact of their covers.
This is an ode to a book lover, a poetry dedicated to the books and their relationship to their covers. Despite the old adage of ‘Never to judge a book by its cover’ this essay from a very competent author explores an emotional connect and identity of the book with its cover. The hidden world of illustrators, designers, publishing, marketing, translations and the series all there but behind the main star - the book, the author and their visual conjectures of book covers.
This book is even more special to me because I received it as a gift (a tradition) in my first face to face meeting with my pen friend of 13 years. There were light pencil notes around certain lines which also connected with me, like the words which bound us for years. This pen friend of mine was a naked book to me till now - full of stories and conversations and suddenly now there was a clothing, a cover, a face to this symbolic book. A person with emotions, animations, features, expressions and it suddenly dawned on me that somehow the image of her took over her inner conscious that I was more familiar with.
There was a certain fear in me with the literal cover of physical anonymity being blown up and if we would continue to like each other (being the human fickle mind we are). And it didn’t disappoint, in fact it gave a new dimension to our epistolary conversations, easing us, humanizing us to each other. Our respective covers opened more topics for discussion and we got comfortable with each other in a new way. We even had some notes to exchange on our facial and body features or certain behaviors which we always thought we would depict.
The distance between the story and the cover was bridged just like our long journey between words and the person. A reassurance that the book I found was a good read and a keeper. Although in this case, the cover came later to the actual story. In this age of social media we always get to know each other from our covers, or ‘profiles’ and rather than taking more effort to know each other better we conclude basis the limited qualified profile, already boxing the person into like or ignore.
As much as the author tries to understand this dichotomy in books and covers, I can understand that the book can’t be too far from the cover and vice versa. Eventually, they come together to make a stronger bond between reader and book or have an opposite effect detaching and breaking from each other.
This book made me think of all the books I have read till now but particularly of the book covers that have stayed with me. Probably a blog for another day of my most memorable book covers or even the books where the cover was more beautiful than the book. Despite what they say, it’s true we also (if not always) judge the book by its cover.
Happy reading. 4.5 stars as the book was only 70 pages long and I can’t get enough of Ms Lahiri.