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.
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .