Wednesday, December 21, 2016
If, as Annie sings, you’re never fully dressed without a smile, then a book is still half-naked until it gets its cover.
Well, that day has finally arrived for my forthcoming novel Brave Deeds. Thanks to the splendid production team at Grove/Atlantic, the book is no longer nude. I know I’m biased, but I really like the novel’s new wardrobe. For four years, the book existed only as bare words, black ants crawling across white sheets of paper, and now it’s splashed with color. I hope it catches, and holds, your eye as it does mine.
Brave Deeds is the story of six U.S. soldiers, stranded in the middle of Baghdad during the Iraq War, who dodge bullets and bombs as they make their way on foot through the streets. Their goal: to reach the other side of the city so they can attend the memorial service for their platoon sergeant.
On the cover, the silhouettes of six rifle-toting figures are drenched in blood as they walk toward the reader. I love the stark colors and the big bold font; as my editor pointed out in an email to me, those elements echo the cover design for Fobbit. I always felt the artwork for that 2012 novel “popped” on the bookshelf and the screen. Though I have yet to hold a physical copy of Brave Deeds in my hands, I have faith the Grove team will make it just as lovely a package as that which bound the words of Fobbit.
Earlier this week, I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s short, beautiful sermon on book design, The Clothing of Books, and since the timing was good, I thought I’d share one of my favorite passages from that book. Lahiri’s words illuminate how I feel about the cover for Brave Deeds, and cover design in general...
A cover appears only when the book is finished, when it is about to come into the world. It marks the birth of the book and, therefore, the end of my creative endeavor. It confers on the book a mark of independence, a life of its own. It tells me that my work is done. So, while for the publishing house it signals the arrival of the book, for me it is a farewell.
The cover signifies that the text inside is clean, definitive. It is no longer wild, coarse, malleable. From now on the text is fixed, and yet the cover has a metamorphic function as well. It transforms the text into an object, something concrete to publish, distribute, and, in the end, sell.
If the process of writing is a dream, the book cover represents the awakening.