by Juhi Singhal Karan and Rachel Leal
We’re exhorted to not judge a book by its cover, dear reader, and yet there surely is a book or two that shoulders its way into our bookshelves purely on the strength of its jacket design. In celebration of our first anniversary, we bring to you five distinct book covers from authors we’ve profiled in this past year.
Shannon Cain is an unapologetic “feminist-leftist bisexual loudmouth” and as Edward Porter said here on Bloom, her stories are about “people living on the margins of society, not necessarily the economic or racial margins, but the behavioral ones.” And so he continues that, “Despite the collection’s [The Necessity of Certain Behaviors] glorious cover featuring perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing protuberant breast in the history of publishing, the stories aren’t stealth attempts to double as titillation.” On being asked “if there [was] a better cover for any book anywhere than the cover for The Necessity of Certain Behaviors,” Cain replied, “No ma’am, there sure isn’t. And there is no writer anywhere who loves her book jacket more than I do.”
Daniel Orozco told Bloom that he tries to talk his students out of doing an MFA immediately after their BA and instead, “encourage[s] them to move into the world, muck around in it, get out of the classroom for a bit.” The cover of his first book, Orientation and Other Stories was one of the 50 best book covers of 2011. How was the cover conceived? As “an instance of a sketchbook drawing finding a life in print,” according to Eric Hanson, the illustrator.
To Meg Pokrass her “characters are often groping for a concrete way to see things in order to feel better.” As Lillian Ann Slugoki said here on Bloom of Pokrass’s characters, “[h]er female protagonists are not destined for disappointment, but transformation.” Says Pokrass about the cover of her debut collection of flash fiction, Damn Sure Right, “To me, the cover photo reflects vulnerability mixed with stalwart determination.”
Tricia Khleif said about Ben Fountain: “Mystery and ambiguity, expressed in musical, finely wrought prose, form the core of Fountain’s fiction.” Trying to evoke this sense of a book is what Steve Attardo, who designed the paperback cover of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, does: “Getting into the mind of a book, expressing what the book is about, making it beautiful and grabbing people’s attention. You always care about what you’re reading first and that’s based on contrast of size, contrast of color, is the title more important than the author, can you read it from across the store or not . . . You have to understand where this book fits in the world of books . . . So any successful book cover is something that you want to hold in your hand. It’s unexpected, smart, and beautiful but at the end of the day you just want to put it on your bookshelf face out because it means something to you.”
Though an art director and a veteran illustrator herself, R.J. Palacio did not design the cover of her hit children’s book Wonder. Palacio did however know what she wanted: “something iconic, visually arresting, bright, happy.” Relinquishing her authorial right to approve the final cover she only acted as an “author consult.” In her own words, “I told him [Tad Carpenter, the designer] the direction I wanted . . . for some reason I had, blue, black and white in my mind; and hand lettered—but the rest they came up with.” The resulting whimsical cover seems like a window to the story contained within its pages.
Homepage photo courtesy The Book Cover Archive