02 June 2009

Judging a sardine by its can (third visit)

In a series of posts on judging books by their covers, culminating in "Covering anatomy", we (Dr C, Growlery, JSBlog, Unreal Nature) have concentrated on the luridly and explicitly sexual. There are, though, other ways in which a cover can give, or be received as, a false message.

The cover on the left is that of the first Kate Atkinson book I read. And the the first she wrote, for that matter, but I'm looking at it from the reader's viewpoint, here.

I had seen it often enough on the shelves in bookshops, but it had never invited me inside. I can't give any valid reason for this: only a thoroughly unjustified reflex prejudice which said to me: "Jokily lightweight and vacuous middle class chick lit". Luckily, a scathing lecture from someone with a more open mind athan mine made me buy the book, open the cover, and read. I've never looked back, but nor have I forgotten the prejudice which might have cut me off from discovery. Book covers are, as Unreal Nature commented a couple of weeks ago, packaging designed to "bait the hook" and catch a buyer. The designer can't know the prejudice of every potential mark; the best s/he can do is make broad judgements about what might attract the largest possible group of consumers and at least avoid alienating as many as possible of the rest.

I'm not proud of the prejudice which might have kept me from Kate Atkinson; whether it's better or worse than the assumptions which shape covers like those we have been discussing thus far, I don't know.

1 comment:

Poor Pothecary said...

There are, though, other ways in which a cover can give, or be received as, a false message.

I was just looking at this cover's pretty astonishing misreading of Nigel Blachin's The Small Back Room

"The story of an inadequate man ... I suddenly felt very tired and hopeless ... "It's odd that you think I don't try."

which focuses on the personal angle to the complete exclusion of the main story about a R&D scientist / bomb disposal expert's struggle against bureaucracy in World War II.