Saturday, April 08, 2006

Favourite Book Covers

I see Ben Peek spotted my post on my favourite book cover before I accidentally removed it. So here it is again. I like this cover because it sticks in my mind - as soon as I saw it I started making up stories about it...

The boy is poor, 'has a bit of a mouth on him', he's obviously up to something, he lives sometime in the mid twentieth century, he's not particularly well-nourished and has to fight for his share of the family fortune - money, sweets, treats, fags - he can't sit still, he bunks off from school, he goes around in a little gang who look a lot like he does, his dad is in jail, his mother struggles to make ends meet and he has an indulgent grandfather whom he loves and will soon lose, once he persuaded a girl much larger than he is to kiss him and couldn't see what all the fuss is about, he likes the teacher he had last year but loathes the one he has now and there is a priest that scares him which is why he never goes to church any more although he knows he will burn in hell for this, but it seems just so far away right now it doesn't bother him.

I think the image is striking, I love the shape, the fact that it is in black and white with just that touch of colour. It intrigues, it makes me want to pick it up. It is part of the book much more than any cover has a right to be, and I think I remember Roddy Doyle paying tribute to it when he received the Booker Prize - rather a long time ago now.

I was wondering what others people's choice would be and was interested to see that Ben's choice is THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER CLAY by Michael Chabon. He says it is best seen in its entirety because the cover is the wraparound sort so the front is only part of the picture. I like those wraparound ones too. One thing I like about the US cover of one of my books is the way an eye has accidentally ended up on the spine..from where it follows you around the room, of course.

2 Comments:

Anonymous crimeficreader said...

I saw that post, Clare, and wondered if I was losing my mind! I've been thinking about it ever since. And I'm still thinking. I've trawled my shelves for the one I thought did it for me, but there's one that's still in a box (post house-move) and it means the most to me.

Covers can say so much to the reader and mean so much to the reader - that the publisher might never have imagined. Both of my immediate thoughts on covers relate back to the nineties and 1980 (specifically) respectively. I find it interesting/intriguing that I don't consider a contemporary cover uppermost in my mind, here.

One of mine is the paperback cover of David Guterson's "Snow Falling On Cedars". The edge of land meets the sea in mist and in a sepia format. Perhaps it's an island like it is in the story? So atmospheric and so true to the story within the book.

The second is the one I can't get my hands on right now, but it's "Two Women" by Lauire Lee. I feel it's not the cover I remember so much but one of the pictures within. The book is a narrative, with his own accompanying photographs, of his courtship of his wife Cathy, the subsequent birth of his daughter Jessie and of her maturing into adulthood.

The book was serialised in The Sunday Times at the time and my parents gave me a copy for my 18th birthday. The photograph I remember the most, and so clearly to this day, was of the innocent baby Jessie investigating a very waxy apple. Both apple and babe were acute in their innocence to the world. The photograph itself was art, in the true sense of the word, IMHO. I don't think it was on the cover, alas, but that book, regardless of what has been divulged since in respect of family relationships, was a work of art to me. It was a clear and biting, emotional and insightful delving into the circumstance of being an adult and all that held dear, at the time.

A great book for me to receive for my 18th birthday, as I approached adulthood myself, and images that remain with me to this day, even if I can't find my copy at this moment!

That book for me, like Ravel's "Pavane pour une infante défunte" makes a defining moment in my life. Cremate me with both, I say! I will move on happy to the next ...

Sat Apr 08, 11:30:00 pm  
Anonymous Clare said...

Crimeficreader - thank you so much for your post - very interesting. Yes, that Snow Falling on Cedars is a memorable cover - as is the title, now I think about it. It's especially interesting for me because I did have this theory that people, in particular photos of children make really good covers - like Paddy Clarke and also McEwan's ATONEMENT...but that's wrong, I realise now - a scene will do very well too.

I didn't know about that Laurie Lee book - although I love his writing - so shall have to look out for it, and that photo - it sounds fascinating. But I do have a trilogy of his autobiographical novels (are they novels? - I am not quite sure) - a Viking hardback. It also is illustrated quite beautifully with line drawings and is one of my treasured possessions too. It was bought for me by my husband - not as auspicious occasion as yours - but remember receiving it and feeling so pleased and grateful.

Mon Apr 10, 08:16:00 pm  

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