OK, I threw my little fit about this on Facebook, and now that that’s out of my system, I can take a more tempered, critical look at Leon Neyfakh’s article in today’s New York Observer about books without dust jackets. (It’s new! It’s hip! It’s trendy!)
September will see the publication of three unusual-looking books: Farrar, Straus and Giroux’s No Impact Man by Colin Beavan, Viking’s Bicycle Diaries by former Talking Head David Byrne, and Graywolf’s The Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliott. What makes these books so unusual-looking is that, even though they’re hardcovers, their cover art is not printed on dust jackets but instead stamped directly onto the boards that hug their pages. The result is a handsome, eye-catching look that reflects a heightened awareness on the part of publishers that books these days cannot be counted on to simply sell themselves.
Wow, really? I’ve never heard of any press publishing books in such a radical format. . . . Sorry—I can’t not be sarcastic and pissed about this. Especially since I wrote an editorial about it a couple months ago.
What really bugs me about this article is how Pitchfork-y it is. (Pitchfork being one of the largest music websites out there, with more influence than just about any publication. And its influence is directly correlated to how half-assed its reviews are. Reviews that come with numerical scores so that you don’t actually have to read the review. Which is usually gibberish anyway. Ah, but I digress.) What I mean is, that Neyfakh is trying to be a trendsetter with this piece. It’s like he suddenly discovered three similar books in his office, decided he would be an early adopter of the paper-over-board fan club and wrote a piece without typing word one into Google in order to research it.
But that’s fine. I mean, whatever. Every reporter (or person) wants a bit of glory. Wants to be ahead of the curve. And who can blame him?
By writing a trendsetter piece though, he’s ignoring both the history of paper-over-board and the potential problems this format can cause. Maybe his American bias explains the fact that he doesn’t know that this format is extremely popular (actually, pretty standard) in countries all over the world. Americans really can’t be expected to know about anywhere beyond our borders—I’m sure we can all agree with that.
And the shelving and sales problems are nicely articulated by Dustin at McNally Jackson in this post.
I’ll be honest here: I’m mostly miffed because
Open Letter wasn’t mentioned in the article the Observer bought and then destroyed VeryShortList. And that’s a crime of the highest order.
I’m not sure I’m getting Oprah’s quote usage in this announcement about her next book club pick . . . Maybe “this” is in the “title”?
Holding a reviewer’s copy of 2666 in public was like brandishing the newest Harry Potter at the playground three months before the on-sale date. Half a dozen eager strangers who’d heard about the book spoke to me while I was reading it. [Ed. Note: I’ll second that, although it’s worth mentioning that this wasn’t the open-top Porsche bookish guys hoped it would be.] Bolaño has particularly captured the imaginations of younger readers because his work is rather like a video game or a set of nested webpages, stories within stories with many apparent authors, and little sense of predetermined purpose.
I’ll second Michael Orthofer’s opinion—this book is going to be “this season’s literary juggernaut.” (In case you’re wondering, Michael gave it a A+.)
I wondered when someone would speak out against Oprah’s endorsement of the Kindle. From the Vroman’s Bookstore Blog:
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or, I don’t know, focusing on the election or something, you probably know that Oprah is just crazy about Amazon’s ebook reader the Kindle. It is, in fact, her “new favorite thing in the world.” This is bad news for bookstores, as Amazon uses a special ebook format on the Kindle, one that only they can sell. In the past, Oprah’s book endorsements, in the form of her Oprah’s Book Club picks, have been a boon to bookstores everywhere, raising the profile of the titles and making bestsellers of authors like Dr. Oz and Wally Lamb. Most recently, her endorsement of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle helped boost sales during an otherwise slow month. That could all change with her endorsement of the Kindle. What happens to bookstores if all of Oprah’s fans start buying their books on the Kindle?
As has been mentioned basically everywhere throughout the blogosphere, Oprah picked Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera as the latest book for her Book Club.
Just in time too—the movie releases nationwide on November 16th. Not that this had anything to do with her decision. Not a chance.
“The small stone plaza was floating in the midday heat. The Christ of Elqui, kneeling on the ground, his gaze thrown back on high, the part in his hair dark under the Atacaman sun—he felt himself falling into an ecstasy.. . .
This slender, uncanny volume—the second, best-selling collection of stories by Russian author Ludmilla Petrushevskaya to appear in the U.S.—has already received considerable, well-deserved praise from many critics and high profile publications. Its seventeen short tales, averaging ten pages each, are. . .
The Urdu word basti refers to any space, intimate to worldly, and is often translated as “common place” or “a gathering place.” This book by Intizar Husain, who is widely regarded as one of the most important living Pakistani writers,. . .
The Whispering Muse, one of three books by Icelandic writer Sjón just published in North America, is nothing if not inventive. Stories within stories, shifting narration, leaps in time, and characters who transform from men to birds and back again—you’ve. . .
Luis Negrón’s debut collection Mundo Cruel is a journey through Puerto Rico’s gay world. Published in 2010, the book is already in its fifth Spanish edition. Here in the U.S., the collection has been published by Seven Stories Press and. . .
To have watched from one of your patios
the ancient stars
from the bank of shadow to have watched
the scattered lights
my ignorance has learned no names for
nor their places in constellations
to have heard the ring of. . .
When Icelandic author Andri Snær Magnason first published LoveStar, his darkly comic parable of corporate power and media influence run amok, the world was in a very different place. (This was back before both Facebook and Twitter, if you can. . .