f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Pop Culture Snipes Back

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pop Culture Snipes Back

Stephen King has an opinion column in EW this week (Harry Potter on the cover) that's worth reading if you have access, though I can't seem to find it online.

In it, he praises a new novel called Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski but absolutely blasts its publisher Farrar, Straus, and Giroux for how it's handled the book--what King calls a kind of "elitist" publishing which includes refusing to put "popular" looking covers on novels, using portentious titles, etc. PW writes up a little article on FSG's response, which seems to be: "Errrr....thanks?"

Having just returned from Mt. Hermon, I've spent five straight days hashing over a side of these issues, so I'm not going to jump in once more.

I agree with King that the cover does little for the book. (Though the ARC cover featured in the PW article is no better, and perhaps worse.)

Elitist publishing is an interesting notion because in a lot of ways it goes against all practical business sense. How can a book cover be "popular-looking"? Isn't that the point of a book cover? Is there really a "right" kind of reader you want for your book?

That said, I'm sure the fine folks at FSG (who really do publish some of the finest fiction in the country) would say that their "core" audience--the ones that they need to pick up their books--have an aesthetics and a formal design taste that eschews common cover treatment. (And a recent foray into popular cover design failed atrociously.)

What King seems to want is just an acknowledgement from a cover that, above all us, "This story will be entertaining." FSG wants its covers to imply, "This is important to read." And right now, even when a book is both entertaining and "important" it seems ne'er the two will meet.