Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Joe Queenan, author of the memoir Closing Time, has published a fun essay in The NYT Book Review titled "When Bad Covers Happen to Good Books."

In brief, Queenan believes that ugly covers have scared him away from otherwise great reading.

"For the longest time I wondered why it took me so long to get around to reading certain books in my personal library."

He continues,
When I was in high school, the assigned version of [Arthur] Miller’s seminal play [Death of a Salesman] had a grim, depressing, green-and-brown cover depicting a stubby, doomed man with his back to the viewer, clutching two suitcases filled with merchandise for which no buyer could possibly be found. I was living in a subpar neighborhood at the time, and my dad was out of work, so it never seemed like that play was going to be as uplifting as The Black Arrow. So I never read it. A few years ago, when the Whitney Museum of American Art mounted an exhibition of postwar art that turned out to include some famous book covers--The Catcher in the Rye, Catch-22, Soul on Ice--I avoided the museum until the show closed.

Spurred by this recollection, I recently scrutinized my library to see how many unread books had disgusting covers. The results were staggering.

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