Covers of Doom Part 2: More library ramblings

Looking closely at this picture may tell you things about my life I don’t necessarily want you to know.

Is there anything more depressing than empty bookshelves? Yes. Many things, like war and the Conservative Party and other bad things. But empty bookshelves seem fairly depressing, and I am not entirely certain why. The books which we are removing from the Taylor Institution library tend to be those which have been entirely replaced by the internet, like bibliographies from other libraries which were out of date before the ink was dry (according to the antiquarian bookseller who is taking a lot of the books which we are getting rid of). And many of the empty shelves are the result of books being moved, not disposed of. So why do I look at an empty bookshelf and want to fill it? I believe this is something which I have come to think of as book fetishism.

The thing is that books like Fahrenheit 451 seem to value the book as an object. This is fair enough – certain books, like The Book of Kells or The Voynich Manuscript are beautiful objects, worthy of veneration. But these books are 1200 and 600 years old respectively. Is the average paperback – like my copy of Fahrenheit 451 – a work of beauty? Some of the covers which I will display later are certainly not beautiful, but they have brought delight by being objects rather than texts. This should not disparage the text. But if we are not to judge a book by its cover, then the eBook should be a wonderful thing which removes the problem of covers, and my girlfriend should stop being so worried about what might be chosen to represent her novel when it is sent to an artist. What book fetishism does is value the object over the function: we like books rather than liking reading.

I suppose my point is that getting rid of books shouldn’t necessarily be regarded as a bad thing simply because books are things of intrinsic value. There is a danger, if we devalue books, that reading loses value as well and people star to read rubbish or, worse, don’t read at all. But a book can lose its value if it is updated, replaced, or rendered unreadable; similarly it becomes of lower value if it is not read and no pleasure or purpose can be gained by reading it. Cheapening books, as much as censoring books, is a problem. But loosing a connection to the physical object should not be considered such a bad thing. A book can still be entertaining, funny, moving, risible, beautiful, lovable on an e-reader. They can still be valued, perhaps more for their content than for their covers.

On the subject of book covers…

This novel won the Hugo Award in 1965. Seriously. And yes, it does include sex with a humanoid cat thing.

Read a review of that book here, on The Guardian website.

 

I’m sure there’s a 100% valid, plot worthy reason why that woman’s clothes got torn in that precise way which isn’t objectifying or horribly sexist at all.

No need to illustrate this one – everyone knows what Gerard Sorme gets up to.

 

This book was actually shortlisted for an award by the Guardian, which suggests that it is probably actually quite good, maybe. But the title and cover don’t do it any favours, do they?

I thought this book sounded good and genuinely wanted to read it!

 

There’s one review of this on amazon.com, which complains that it likens Jesus to the old gods, and the reader felt this lessened Him. I studied Greek and Roman religions, including early Christianity, and I can tell you this: He is exactly the same se the old gods; his dad was one for Christ’s sake.

Just… the boobs. Yeah.

 

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2 thoughts on “Covers of Doom Part 2: More library ramblings

  1. I can’t believe you brush your teeth with I can’t believe it’s not butter. It just doesn’t have the antibacterial and whitening powers of Lurpak.

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