Bookish Matters: Book Covers and More!

Wow! I certainly expected to find a few moments to post a lot sooner. Some things have to get done no matter what.  I’m sure you understand.  I’ve been busy preparing for Fall 2013—thinking about books, books and more books and blazing through the last few titles on my summer reading list.

Speaking of books, I love book covers AND I love book cover postcards, so I had the AWESOME idea, if I do say so myself, to host a photo swap in two of my swap-bot groups for which participants would create book cover postcards from books in our home libraries.  Sure, there’s the Penguin postcard collection, but what about all the books that are not published by Penguin or even other Penguin books that aren’t included in the collection?  I am missing out on some great postcards.  More importantly, I am missing out on great book suggestions, books I might not have considered otherwise.

The challenge was deciding which book cover to choose.  With far to many books crammed onto my many, many shelves this could have been a daunting task, so I decided to be a bit random in my selection.   I also thought ahead to future—a series of themed or genre postcard swaps would be right up my interests alley.  Books, photographs, and postcards all in one! I chose one fiction title and one non-fiction title for my partners and sent both postcards to the partners.

Authors, Tipper Gore and Nan Roman.  Curators, Philip Brookman and Jane Slate Siena.  Part of the National Alliance to End Hunger.

The Way Home.  Authors, Tipper Gore and Nan Roman. Curators, Philip Brookman and Jane Slate Siena. Part of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.  The book is a companion document to a traveling exhibit that opened in 1999 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art  in Washington DC. Cover photograph by Tipper Gore.

From the dust jacket (or book jacket):

This extraordinary book documents the plight of homeless men, women, and children in cities and towns across America–and points the way to lasting solutions. Photographers as varied in outlook and style [listed on the book cover above] travel through America’s cities to record homelessness not as a general social condition or charged political issue, but as a predicament with which real men and women grapple.  From Miami to Seattle, Houston to Minneapolis, New York to Los Angeles, these artists document homelessness and its solutions with keen, compassionate, and incisive eyes.

The book contains 33 color plates and 91 duotone plates.

I added the bibliographic information at the bottom to make a 4×6 print without resorting to cropping the photo.   The dust jacket speaks volumes, but the actual book cover speaks even more profoundly.  Take a look:

Detail of photograph by Benedict J. Fernandez of a homeless encampment in Houston, Texas between two highways.

Detail of photograph by Benedict J. Fernandez of a homeless encampment in Houston, Texas between two highways.

The second postcard I sent was a photograph of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus.

Cover design by Honi Werner

Adichie, Purple Hibiscus.  Cover design by Honi Werner

From the cover:

Fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world is circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound. Her wealthy Catholic father, under whose shadow Kambili lives, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home.

When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili’s father sends her and her brother away to stay with their aunt, a University professor, whose house is noisy and full of laughter. There, Kambili and her brother discover a life and love beyond the confines of their father’s authority. The visit will lift the silence from their world and, in time, give rise to devotion and defiance that reveal themselves in profound and unexpected ways. This is a book about the promise of freedom; about the blurred lines between childhood and adulthood; between love and hatred, between the old gods and the new.

Adichie’s debut novel was well-received with many awards and accolades.   Purple Hibiscus has worn a number of beautiful covers.  You can see them on Adiche’s website along with other book covers.

PVMcHugh, my first partner, from the group “Four Photos and a Note,” sent covers of two of my favorite books–Homer’s The Odyssey and Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon.

Homer, The Odyssey

Homer, The Odyssey.  Photo of book cover by PVMcHugh

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story

of that man skilled in all ways of contending,

the wanderer, harried for years on end,

after he plundered the stronghold

on the proud height of Troy.

(Opening lines of the Robert Fitzgerald translation)

From the introduction to the Fitzgerald introduction:

The ten-year war waged by the Greeks against Troy, culminating in the overthrow of the city, is now itself ten years in the past. Helen, whose f light to Troy with the Trojan prince Paris had prompted the Greek expedition to seek revenge and reclaim her, is now home in Sparta, living harmoniously once more with her husband Meneláos (Menelaus). His brother Agamémnon, commander in chief of the Greek forces, was murdered on his return from the war by his wife and her paramour. Of the Greek chieftains who have survived both the war and the perilous homeward voyage, all have returned except Odysseus, the crafty and astute ruler of Ithaka (Ithaca), an island in the Ionian Sea off western Greece. Since he is presumed dead, suitors from Ithaka and other regions have overrun his house, paying court to his attractive wife Penélopê, endangering the position of his son, Telémakhos (Telemachus), corrupting many of the servants, and literally eating up Odysseus’ estate. Penélopê has stalled for time but is finding it increasingly difficult to deny the suitors’ demands that she marry one of them; Telémakhos, who is just approaching young manhood, is becoming actively resentful of the indignities suffered by his household.

Many of us were required to read The Odyssey in high school or college and we’re familiar with the plot of the Trojan war hero Odysseus’ 10-year journey back to Ithaca after the 10-year war.  I must admit, even though Homer was required, I didn’t fall in love with The Odyssey until I was in graduate school.  In working my way through James Joyce’s Ulysses, I realized I had to return to Homer’s epic to get a firm grasp of the complex novel.   My love for The Odyssey deepened when I started teaching it a few years later in world literature courses.

Song of Solomon Cover, photographed by PVMcHugh

Morrison, Song of Solomon. Cover photographed by PVMcHugh

At one time in my life, I considered Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon my favorite book of all time.  Though still a favorite, it has had a bit of a status demotion.  There are so many outstanding novels  competing for my literary affection.

Song of Solomon is Nobel Prize-, Pulitzer Prize-winning Morrison’s third novel of ten.  It was published in 1977.  I read it when I was in high school and later in college.  If memory serves me well,  it was a book one of my older sisters had in her collection.  I pilfered it for a few days.  My older sister, Lori, supplied a seemingly endless collection of great reading for me in those days.  She was in college by then and had a wealth material available for me.   Shh…don’t tell her.

From the inside flap of the Vintage 2004 reprint edition:

Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, a novel of large beauty and power, creates a magical world out of four generations of black life in America, a world we enter on the day of the birth of Macon Dead, Jr. (known as Milkman), son of the richest black family in a mid-western town; the day on which the lonely insurance man, Robert Smith, poised in blue silk wings, attempts to fly from a steeple of the hospital, a black Icarus looking homeward…

We see Milkman growing up in his father’s money-haunted, death-haunted house with his silent sisters and strangely passive mother, beginning to move outward–through his profound love and combat with his friend Guitar…through Guitar’s mad and loving commitment to the secret avengers called the Seven Days…through Milkman’s exotic, imprisoning affair with his love-blind cousin, Hagar…and through his unconscious apprenticeship to his mystical Aunt Pilate, who saved his life before he was born.

And we follow him as he strikes out alone; moving first toward adventure and then–as the unspoken truth about his family and his own buried heritage announces itself–toward an adventurous and crucial embrace of life.

This is a novel that expresses, with passion, tenderness, and a magnificence of language, the mysterious primal essence of family bond and conflict, the feelings and experience of all people wanting, and striving, to be alive.

It’s been so long since I read Song that I fear my own summary would be filled with inaccuracies. Time to read it again.

The next postcard came from fellow Sharp Shooter and book addict, “aliceinconverse. ”  She sent the cover of one of her favorite books:

Well-worn book cover photo by aliceinconverse

The Devil in the White City.  Cover photo by “aliceinconverse”

From Booklist (the review journal of the American Library Association):

Larson’s ambitious, engrossing tale of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 focuses primarily on two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect who was the driving force behind the fair, and Henry H. Holmes, a sadistic serial killer working under the cover of the busy fair. After the 1889 French Exposition Universel wowed the world with the Eiffel Tower and high attendance numbers, interest began to grow in the U.S. for a similar fair. Chicago and New York were the top contenders for the location, and in February 1890, Chicagoans were overjoyed to hear they had won the honor. Burnham and his partner, John Root, the leading architects in Chicago, were tapped for the job, and they in turn called on Frederick Law Olmstead, Louis Sullivan, and Richard M. Hunt to help them build the world’s greatest fair. They faced overwhelming obstacles: inhospitable weather, bureaucracy, illness, and even death. Unbeknownst to any of them, Holmes, a charismatic, handsome doctor, had arrived in the city and built a complex with apartments, a drugstore, and a vault, which he used to trap his victims until they suffocated. When the White City opened for business in May 1893, hundreds of thousands of people flocked to it, although a plummeting economy and several accidents did nothing to help business. A shocking murder concludes the ultimately successful fair, and that’s before Holmes claims his final victims in the cruelest act of his career. A magnificent book. (Kristine Huntley)

This title is new to me, but after reading the reviews, it is now on my reading list.

And here’s a wonderful postcard I received at the end of last month:

Woman Reading (from Zazzle)

Woman Reading (from Zazzle).  Sent by swap-bot Jen.

I’ve received many, many literary or bookish postcards over the years.  Here are a few more postcards for your visual pleasure (click an image to get a closer look).

Finally, here’s one of the first books published in Belarus–the Bible.

First Bible...

The Bible printed by F. Skaryna in Prague (1517-1518). Sent by Postcrosser Misha

This is one of my favorite postcards and an appropriate conclusion to the post since the Gutenberg Bible was the first major book printed with movable type in the Western world.

I hope this inspired you to read a book!

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: