Magazine Cover Book Report

One is that the illustrated book cover, like painted movie posters or newspaper comics, is pretty much dead.

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It’s a little like getting to choose your own face.

What kind of face would best express your inner self?

We are proud of our relationships with publishers many of whom have been with us for over two decades and some much longer.

Getting to design your own book cover is the sort of ultimately maddening power that probably shouldn’t be entrusted to vain mortals.

Looking at these old sci-fi covers, with their jewellike colors and cryptic, sinister imagery, made me remember the weird thrill I felt when I was a nerdy sci-fi-reading kid in the seventies.

The so-called golden age of book and magazine illustration had died out some decades earlier, with the advent of color photography and improved print reproduction, but superb illustration was still thriving in the marginal niches of pulp and genre covers.With the imminence of Kindles and e-readers, this is all moot anyway; soon enough, book covers, like album covers before them—like albums themselves, or sheet music for popular songs, or dance cards—will be a quaint, old-timey thing you have to explain to the uninterested young, and there’ll be one fewer excuse to strike up conversations with pretty strangers on the subway.In another regrettable development, I am no longer thirteen, and apparently won’t be again.Perhaps to get rid of me for a while, my editor dispatched me on a research mission: to go to a bookstore, survey the covers of other literary nonfiction books, and report back to her about which ones I liked, and why.The main principles of design—in books, appliances, cars, clothing, everything—are: Which is why the covers of most contemporary books all look disturbingly the same, as if inbred.Can you imagine a face that would combine their best features?There’s often an embarrassing disconnect between how people try to present themselves and how they’re actually perceived, which is why they ask their friends to tell them honestly how they look in something—and why publishing houses hire professional designers for books’ covers and allow their authors very little say over them.My favorite variations on this type are the Vintage editions of Nabokov (the best is the title “Speak, Memory” partially obscured by a piece of translucent wax paper). or lumberjack beards on skinny hipsters, will look embarrassingly dated in a decade or two.But most essay collections look boringly alike, victims of a current fashion in cover design that, like the latest generation state-of-the-art C. This outing made me ask myself: When was the last time I was really entranced and drawn in by a book cover?Richard Powers, who illustrated the cover of what seemed like every science fiction paperback published in the nineteen-sixties, was influenced by surrealists like Roberto Matta and Yves Tanguy, and painted landscapes where monumental amorphous forms stood like alien architecture or colossal carcasses on indistinct plains.Ian Miller’s covers for Bantam’s editions of Ray Bradbury looked as though they were drawn by a lunatic imprisoned with only a straight edge and a compass—mechanical fantasias of girders and circuitry enclosing grotesque, half-molten faces.


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