Monday, December 7, 2009

People Say We're Crazy

The first thing that people usually say at trade shows or conferences is, "Godine makes such beautiful books!" We take great pride in that, from the page margins, to the typography (call us crazy, but over digital types like Georgia and Arial, we prefer Minion or Miller, Bulmer or Bell), to the printing quality, and — perhaps most important to the public — the cover or jacket design. Some say they aren't all gems though. At The New York Times, Joe Queenan describes the effect of book design on his reading habits:

"It all added up. Until now, I’d thought that I had set these books aside for so many years because they were too daunting or, in the case of Thomas Mann, too dull. Now I realized that what these books had in common was that they were ugly. Really, really ugly. The 1987 hardback of George Perec’s Life: A User’s Manual [ed: edition in question pictured to the left, & no longer available; our new edition pictured to the right] is a dreary reimagining of a Balthus street scene. The shabby 1991 hardback edition of the Thomas C. Reeves biography A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy looks as if somebody in the design department got desperate and pasted clip art onto the cover seconds before it was shipped to the printer. A 1997 edition of The Bad Seed comes adorned with a photograph of a macabre doll that bears an odd resemblance to a girl I sat next to in fifth grade. A girl who creeped me out.

"Gradually, I realized that the books I had put off reading for so long all had covers that screamed: “Pulp me! Pulp me!” I’d owned Jorge Luis Borges’s Personal Anthology for 35 years, but had never opened it because the cover looked like somebody had smeared mustard all over it. This may also be the reason I’d never taken a crack at Wallace Markfield’s unjustly overlooked novel Teitlebaum’s Window, or Don DeLillo’s Libra. Graphic vileness was also the common denominator linking Stock Market Logic; Three Plays, by Sean O’Casey; Can You Drill a Hole Through Your Head and Survive?; History of the Conquest of Peru; The Crying of Lot 49; L’Assomoir and even The Satanic Verses."

Ah, the best laid plans . . . but at least we're in good company!

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