Wednesday, February 25

Judging a Book by its Cover

Let's face it: sometimes you pick up a book off the shelf because the cover looks great. It gets you to flip to that crucial first page, see if the words can hold your interest longer than a paragraph, a page. Before you know it, you've been glued in front of that shelf and the store attendants are clearing their throats.

This is when you decide whether to drop the book or head to the counter and gladly pay for it.

Beth Carswell gives us a list of 30 novels worth buying based on the cover alone. The list is a little lopsided for me. Of coure, she's biased, because she's writing it for Abe Books. But there are some pretty interesting covers there. I like the cover David Pelham did for Clockwork Orange. Here I'm also biased--this the cover of the copy I picked up in a booksale bin long long ago, after I was wowed by the movie version.

Then there's the cover designed by for Chuck Palahniuk's Rant.

We see a network of what seems like a network of veins. Claire Broadhurst tells us a little bit more about this innovative design:
when you initially look at it the only indicating a title is the ‘R’ which is cut through window to the title which is placed on the layer beneath.

The graphics are undeniably abstract, however as you look closer it could represent any number of things. My initial thoughts were this was designed to indicate a curious yet confused scene which is constantly changing. However looking it again it could also be symbolic of a human heart, which has mutated into an abnormal form and is aggressively taking over the page.
She goes on to say that the book is ostensibly about a fictional character, Buster Casey, who "may or may not be the most efficient serial killer of our time." Reading this synopsis, one is afforded a glimpse into the character's interior life. "May or may not be," "efficient," "killer." It's a curious image, one that makes you want to pick it up and see for yourself whether or not the suggestion is true. The book cover design created by Rodrigo Corral and Jacob Magraw hit home.

Also, it somehow connects with the previous Palahniuk novel, Choke, the one that details the travails of a guy who pretends to choke in restaurants and get rescued by random people who are then grateful for being given the chance to "save" him. The Choke cover features a human body with the muscular system, the sort you find in those great big encyclopedias with the thin pages you can put one on top of the other and the human body grows from skeleton, then organs and muscles, then veins.

If you're looking for continuity or thematic unity in a writer's work as it is represented in his book covers, then this is it. I bought Choke years before. The cover was just a bonus. As for Rant, let's just say that I didn't pick it up, interesting cover not withstanding. But that's not the book designer's fault. It has more to do with being burned by a previous Palahniuk novel I picked up, Haunted. (Never finished it. After "Guts," it's all downhill there for me.)

One thing though. Carswell names Michael Collica responsible for Rant's book design and/or illustration. However, all other sources name Corral and Magraw. I normally don't trust Wikipedia and the Net 100% of the time, but if there's not a single source that names Collica as the rightful designer, then it's still Corral and Magraw for me.

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