The Clothing of Books
by Jhumpa Lahiri
If Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri had her way, book jackets would be “optical echoes” of content, reflecting their sense and spirit. And the ideal cover for her volumes would be designed by someone who knew her and her work well. Unfortunately, that rarely happens, especially nowadays, when publishers will add to a cover information such as past awards and critics’ quotes, along with the book title, design and author’s name. The Clothing of Books is a long read that will have you revisiting that piece of sage advice about never judging a book by its cover. Adding to its interest is the opinion of an author (the daughter of a librarian) who admits to a near violent response every time she is asked to autograph one of her many books. Its “awful cover”, she feels, is the result of a misleading translation, and coming to terms with it is to accept a loss of control over her work. However, just as with the poorly attired, being a badly dressed book is not always terminal. In the United States, if a first edition sinks in sales, its paperback edition may be given a new cover.