Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Book review: The Clothing of Books, by Jhumpa Lahiri

I am one of those people who are very often the cover of a book. Once in a while, I am mentioning in my book reviews, if necessary, aspects related to the cover, because I still think that the cover should be the perfect expression of the book content. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen too often to notice many spectacular book covers, in many cases recognizing the same patterns used for various titles - the most frequent one being the different colour mix used initially for the Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, for instance. Not too much imagination around, it seems.
The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri develops this topic and creates the author's perspective on the choice and meaning of the book covers. It is an essay offering more insights into the subject outlined by Lahiri on the occasion of the discourse made on June 10, 2015, in Florence, upon the awarding of Premio Gregor von Rezzori. 
Similarly with clothes, the cover of a book is a sign of identity, which singles the literary work apart and confers its specific meaning. For the writer, 'a cover appears only when the book is finished, when it is about to come into the world. It marks the birth of the book and, therefore, the end of my creative endeavor. It confers on the book a mark of independence, a life of its own. It tells me that my work is done. So, while for the publishing house it signals the arrival of the book, for me it is a farewell'. 'I know when the cover makes its appearance, the book will be read, it will be criticized, analysed, forgotten'. For marketing and publishing purposes, '(...) the book jacket is not only the text's first clothing, but also its first interpretation - booth visual and for sales promotion'. 
Interestingly, Lahiri succeeds to explore all the sides involved in the elaboration and evaluation of the 'clothing of books', from the sentimental to the intellectual and practical-technical stages. Step-by-step, she covers with a lot of attention paid to the smallest details. If you want to have a full overview of the process of creating and understanding book covers, this essay offers an extensive overview.
She confesses that in most cases, she isn't happy with her book covers, a feeling I personally share. As for the the current one, that imitates a hand-made cover, made by the needle, it might look a bit unusual, moderately likeable, but much better than most of the other covers I've seen in the last months.
This is a book recommended to book lovers that still hope that the fine art of book covers is still alive, especially in the era of e-books and speed reading (which is not necessarily a bad thing).
Rating: 5 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange of an honest review

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