Monday, 19 October 2009

'You can't judge a book by its cover'?

‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’ – a pretty familiar saying, that one. It is also something that I have always, kind of, thought to be vaguely right.

But I am starting to slightly rethink and to more fully recognise and appreciate the contribution that art can and does play here.

As I said on my previous blog entry here, it was totally the cover that enticed me to buy Douglas Kennedy’s book, ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’. I then discovered what a great fiction writer he was and went on to buy other books of his – all of which have very good covers.

I then reflected on the beautiful covers of the magazine, Managing Information (MI), as well as the lovely photographs that are contained in it. Also, the big influence this had on my decision to write for MI.

And right now I have just discovered another new author from a book cover; another author that I am really enjoying, indeed, loving to read. This is Erica James. The cover that caught my eye was for her book ‘Tell it to the Skies’, published by Orion, in paperback, in 2007, which I spotted in my local library.

I found it to be a wonderful read; another book that I could not put down. It was not in quite the same class as Douglas Kennedy’s books, mind you; the plot was not as complex, and the political dimension was not there. Yet, even so, it proved to be a real page-turner and quite beautiful. Then, I tried another one by her: ‘It’s the Little Things’, published in paperback by Orion, in 2008.

Again, it proved to be a very gripping and a moving book. ‘Tell it to the Skies’ deals with topics such as orphans and suicides, whilst ‘It’s the Little Things’ focuses on two friends, Sally and Chloe and explores issues such as the dilemmas of falling in love with a vicar (for Chloe)! Also, how it is often 'the little things' that can have such profound effects on our lives. Erica James says:

"We humans have an incredible ability for surviving the seemingly insurmountable, but it's always the little things - the daily irritations of everyday life - that prove more challenging." (p. 428).

In 'It's the Little Things' a work colleague pursues Sally, for example, and tempts her into having an affair. When it all goes 'pear-shaped' she asks him why he persisted so much and he said it was because she belittled him when he started working in the company and he wanted to 'pay her back'. So, this 'little thing' ended up having a catastrophic effect on her life; breaking up her marriage etc.

In terms of our own endeavours, I think the cover that Glenn Rikowski chose for his book, ‘The Battle in Seattle' is very powerful and reflects just what the book is about, with people demonstrating against the World Trade Organisation. This was published by The Tufnell Press in London, in 2001.

Whilst the cover of ‘Postmodernism in Educational Theory’, edited by Dave Hill, Peter McLaren, Mike Cole and Glenn Rikowski, published by The Tufnell Press in 1999, also draws ones attention in its own very distinct way.

So, I will endeavour to pay somewhat more attention to book covers in the future, and let my instinct drive me more, although of course, this is not a science, and a good book cover could still well be a cover-up for a poor book! Still, let’s take some risks and aim to make the most of life!

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