Was watching an art program on television today and the artists had been challenged to create a piece of work that encapsulated the content of a specific book. The winning piece would then become the cover art for the book in question. It was an interesting exercise for all the artists and of how they view what could be deemed commercial art rather than fine art, but what those who felt the work was beneath hem failed to realize was that some of the greatest artists have been commissioned to create or had existing work chosen to adorn the cover of a specific book. The chosen piece visually striking, I have not read the book in question so do not know if it reflected the content accurately. On thinking about the challenge later was how much our choice of book is decided through the strengths of the cover art? For me I have my set of writers I follow and the covers could be anything, I choose the book simply for the content rather than appearance. Now if I am stuck for reading material between favorite authors I so have a hunt around on the book shelves. But again I tend not to go for cover art but keep picking up titles and reading the blurbs, I tend to find the written information more informative at times than the chosen cover art. Although the art work may be striking and beautifully done, it is very challenging to give a well informed and rounded synopsis of a book in a single image. That is not to say this holds true for all titles, there are those who manage to encapsulate the essence of the respective book with breathtaking visuals, that resonate with the book buyer. But I think that in employing the methods I do in choosing new titles perhaps I loose out on the excitement of discovering a great read because I did not like the cover art and vice versa.
Reflecting on yesterdays post about how we are possibility loosing printed news to the realms of digital space. I began to wonder to day if the same is beginning to happen to the beloved book. One of the writers I follow has a new book out this week and enquiring about it in a bookshop here I was told it would have to be ordered, ok. This I can deal with, but on visiting their website found the only readily available copy was an ebook. This is not the first occasion of this happening and I am beginning to wonder if the book will go the proposed way of some newspapers, existing only as a collection of one’s and zero’s. As much as technology is a necessary evil at times, there are some areas where it needs to be restrained and let things exist as they have for centuries. What is so wrong with holding a book and reading, feeling the crisp pages between your finger tips, excitement building trying to work out who the murderer is, did the hero get the girl in the end, did the villain get his comeuppance and does Cinderella get to the ball. The beauty of a handcrafted first edition, the woven book cloth encircling the precious contents, fingers exploring the valleys and grooves of the embossed lettering, the crack of the glue as you open it and the smell of the paper, fresh, clean and inviting. For me my life and its relationships can be mapped out through books, especially within my own collection, for each is the record of a specific moment or event in time, Chocolate (Joanne Harris) a gift from a friend on holidays, Bleed (Simon Norfolk) a christmas gift from my sister, Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carol) on leaving a job, The Moderns (IMMA) a job well done, the list goes on. Each time I use or reference one of my books I am always reminded of the person who was kind enough to give it to me, and even when they have gone, a memory of them will continue. I do not believe the same can be said for a collection of one’s and zero’s. Long live the book.
This link takes you to an article on the BBC’s website discussing the downsizing of the New Orleans newspaper The Times-Picayune. Due to the financial downturn the paper will now only be published 3 days a week with the balance of information being accessible online. I remember being in New Orleans in 2005 and reading the paper for everyday I was there, the same as I would when in Canada or Ireland. There is not a day that goes by where I do not read a newspaper of some description. To me newspapers are a more tangible connection to the world we exist within, the fact the information is written down somehow makes it more valid and real, than the same information being viewed on 24 hour news channels. Ultimately, like reading a book it is the experience of sitting at breakfast or over coffee and physically turning the pages, feeling the thin paper, with the ink coming away, staining your fingers. As much as online appears to be the way to progress, in adopting this avenue, we begin to loose those master craftsmen and the skills they utilize, in order to breath life into the creation of a newspaper. There is a physicality to the process that can not, and I believe should not, be replaced in the digital age. Remember that in passing through any airport in the world, no matter what grip the digital appears to have, you are still solemnly greeted at newsstands by The New York Times, The Guardian, The Irish Independent, Die Welt, and Le Monde. Comforting to know the printed word can still be more prized than the digital.
To remember, never to forget. Have been following an online thread today about the importance of books and the role they play in our remembrance of past historical events. The question posed is that with the advent of e-books that history could be altered or changed in order to change the outcome of a specific event or to remove its existence altogether. As we move through the twenty-first century eyewitnesses who witnessed the history of the twentieth century become fewer and fewer, and with their loss, a tangible and real connection to past events are excised. Thus the books written which document and record the events of the past become more precious, but no matter how complete they are there will always be omissions. Not intentional but not everything can be remembered. In addition no matter how unbiased the author may claim to be, there will to some extent always be a bias present, this is inherent to human nature, through upbringing, family history, ideals, education, culture and life experience. Thus, creating digital words from the physically printed ones, does not alter or exclude there meaning, for the meaning to begin with is already incomplete.
“Nobody ever sees truth except in fragments.”
Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit