Working for a company that provides a particular product/service will often make that product/service less enjoyable. This was the case for me with the exterior of books. My first job out of college was in publishing, and my main task was to write the ‘descriptive copy’ for the back of books. This was enjoyable work in many ways, but it also made back-cover copy appear all the more garish, with its ability to say very little and its abundance of em dashes. Of course, maybe that’s just how I was writing at the time. Maybe that’s how I still write (winky face). Also, during this period I sat in far too many ‘sales conferences,’ listening to debates on often trivial aspects of cover designs.
Now I no longer work in publishing, so I can appreciate a good book cover without all of that insecure self-reflection and work association. Today I found an old worn copy of Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar in a coffee shop. A previous owner had underlined, annotated, and outlined its labyrinthian plot. They had also written some poems in the back; one in particular talked about excitement for what the night might bring alongside fear that it will be boring and lonely. There were grease stains on pages, and overall it was a platonic well-worn book. Sadly, it had the odd job of an ornament for what looked like overpriced men’s toiletry bags.
The cover is what prompted me to pick it up and to go out and purchase a copy. I didn’t end up asking if the book was on sale at the coffee shop given its liminal adornment status. However, when I found the book at a book store, it had a different cover. I don’t really like the new cover.