I was hanging out with some friends in a small book store in Kyoto last week when I saw this volume of Pen Magazine. The art of book cover designs.
It was genius, even though the Japanese was far above my reading level. I found myself gazing at the different covers of a translated book, each cover specifically designed for a different country, a reading audience with an image of the world transcribed by unique cultural identities and colored by a symbolism unique to the people who live and speak in a different language. Fantastic.
Below I’ve complied, less artistically, one of the topics covered in this magazine–the covers of Colorless Tsukuru by Haruki Murakami. What do you think they say about the people, the audiences’ perceptions of the world?
Japan / China / Canada-USA
Finland / Random House Publisher – with personalizable cover / Dutch
Germany / Norway / Poland
What were your favorite books when you were in elementary school? Did you read anything which struck you as odd and memorable?
I have fond memories of reading books as a child. Even though I can’t recall the plots of each book I read, I know I consumed the vast majority of a handful of series including Goosebumps, Mr. Men and Little Ms., Chronicles of Narnia, and Choose Your Own Adventure. Sometimes I wonder where scenes from my dreams originate, and I almost suspect they are directly linked to the worlds (alternate realities)which I believed these stories existed in.
No, the point of this story is not just to reminisce, even thought it’s fun! Rather, I bring these books up to comment on how some types of experimental writing find their way into mainstream culture and are able to draw lots of readers or become a writing practice. Concrete poetry has done this, and so have other forms.
Visual poems highlight the page as a physical object which a reader must interact with. A special element of concrete poetry is its ability to change the manner in which the reader reads the words on the page. Typically, reading direction is from left to right and top to bottom, but concrete poems alter this format and leave the reader to surmise the proper reading sequence. (A technical note: the exploration of the complex interaction between a work and a reader is phenomenology.)
Choose Your Own Adventure books also work on the same premise, bringing attention to the form and involving the reader in a different way than a typical storybook.
Because they are story-length works, instead of selecting the order in which to read individual words or word groupings, these books ask readers to actively participate in selecting the next page to read. I have no access to a legitimate English library, but if I did, I’d be in the kids section right now, reliving my childhood! (I’m such a nerd)