Friday, March 14, 2008

You Can't Judge A Book... (Well, Maybe You Can)

As I spend a good deal of my working week on trains, above and below ground, I can't help but notice what my fellow passengers are reading. Surprisingly often - especially above ground - it is the Bible or related religious tracts. But large numbers are always reading the kind of big selling, respectable, emotionally correct titles endorsed by Richard and Judy and co, and I've noticed lately that they're all beginining to look the same. Jacket designers have gone big on sepia tones, singed parchment effects and faded photographs, often with a washed-out, hand-coloured look - le style Nemirovsky, you might call it (though Suite Francaise is a far far better book than most of these). It's odd how jacket design goes in phases - a while back, wherever I looked it was larky, spidery, all-over-the-place chick lit jackets, or a faux 50s hand-painted style for the marginally more serious works - this sparked perhaps by the ubiquitous Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Before that there was a phase of sunny escapism - tables in the sun, chairs, sun hats... These things come and (mercifully) go, but the present style suggests a strong tug of nostalgia for an elusive past when it seemed that things were serious and real and had meaning - perhaps it explains too the pull of those pseudo-enigmatic images of men in hats by Jack Vettriano. Something must.


  1. I noticed last time I was in Waterstones that there was a 60s minimal retro-look Penguin series on front of shop display. Apparently, they are (and were) colour coded for someone's benefit - I don't know whose. Unfortunately, the prices were still 21st century...

  2. ...perhaps it explains too the pull of those pseudo-enigmatic images of men in hats by Jack Vettriano.

    Are these the kind of men in hats you had in mind, Nige:

    I was made aware that the other person in the lobby, the tall figure in a leather fedora, happened to be my security detail.

    This nameless man, what could he be but FBI?

    Or this.....

    This, at any rate, is where I first met the author of A***** R*****, the great Joey Athena. Imposing in leather fedora - specially designed to suit the proportions of his ego - a bright yellow shirt, tan breeches and riding boots, he strode boldly towards my table to the strains of Oh When the Saints ....

    Or this....

    He looked more like a bounty-hunter than a writer, I suggested. >Writing ain’t much of a living, baby!< He replied, adding that a man had to do something these days to do justice to the size of his fedora...

    Copyright, Selena Dreamy

  3. I only buy books with pictures of guns on the front. I find reducing the choice in this way saves me a lot of time..

    Avoid at all cost ones with sad child figures staring at their feet behind blond fringes - these are sagas of "childhood survivors" surely the worlds worse passing (not quickly enough) literary phenomenon.

  4. There's a hilarious looking book on the table in the staff room. It has a picture of a small, dirty, child standing in a 50s style street. The title is, and i shit ye not, "My Mam Sold Me For A Cigarette."

  5. I thought that Vettriano's attraction lay in the hope that is still possible to live a civilised life after coastal erosion had swept the dining room away. I thought he received subsidy from the Environment Agency. Do authors have input into cover designs?