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The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri explores the art of book covers : A Review

Lahiri Says : Dressing a book is an art, there’s no doubt. A published volume sits at the intersection of two forms of creative expression. Every book jacket implies the touch of an artist. And this pairing, this understanding between writer and artists, interests me greatly.

I will be honest with you all. I buy books by looking at cover design and titles all the time. I mean, that’s like the first impression for me. I easily get fascinated by quirky covers and sometimes even plain covers interest me. Sure, some covers tell stories too. But other than this attraction and storytelling part, I never thought of anything else. The concept of the book cover is fascinating because all of us have different opinions about it. But what Jhumpa Lahiri discussed about book covers in her book ‘The clothing of books’ is just phenomenal and interesting. Coming all that from an author was like music to ears and of course some additions to my perspective.

This is a 70 paged essay by Jhumpa Lahiri that one can complete in a go. This book starts with Lahiri’s judgment about school uniforms. She talked about how in America, the choice of wearing anything to the school tormented her. It made her feel different. She already felt that she did not belong there, because of her name, her looks, family and other aspects. She wanted to be like everyone else and yet unique in herself and uniform would have been the only solution. And in her opinion, most of her book jackets do not fit her well, and that’s why she thinks that the uniform can be the solution in case of books too. It is her opinion as a writer. But again, there’s a commercial value attached to cover rather than aesthetic. It helps books succeed in the market.

A good cover is flattering. I feel myself listened to, understood. A bad cover is like an enemy, I find it hateful.

This book nicely addresses Lahiri’s relationship with book covers as a writer ( mostly) and as a reader too. Lahiri feels that the book jacket is like a first visual interpretation of the book and plays a major role in sales promotion as well. Moving forward, she talks about how the right and wrong cover makes her feel. There are a lot more things discussed in this book like the concept of naked books, the analogy of translations and book covers, book jackets of her books, publishing process, the journey of a book cover etc.

I found this book pretty interesting as this made me look at book covers with a whole new light.

I recommend this book. It's a quick and interesting read.

From the book:

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that a cover is a sort of translation, that is, an interpretation of my words in another language -- a visual one. It represents the text, but isn't part of it. It can't be too literal. It has to have its own take on the book.

Books come to stand for various episodes in our lives, for certain idealism, follies of belief, moments of love. Along the way they accumulate our marks, our stains, our innocent abuses, they come to wear our experience of them on their covers and bindings like wrinkles on our skin.


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