There exists a particular type of book cover that is as soft and creamy-smooth as the skin on a newborn babe. Newborn babes are fine in their place but finding such textures on a book cover can initially be disconcerting.
These covers– like suede but more slippery– once seemed exclusive to Dzanc Books, http://www.dzancbooks.org/. I’d purchased and library-borrowed many a Dzanc book solely due to their disturbing and delightful cover textures and never been sorry.
Looking around my apartment now though, the only Dzanc here* is “Asunder”, short stories by Robert Lopez. (“Two despicables in conversation. Tempers flare. I’m the one under the oil painting.” From first story, Vaya Con Huevos.)
I guess news of Dzanc’s creamy-weird book covers spread and one day at a Chicago independent retailer in Andersonville, I found myself staring down at a stack of touchy-tingly covers wrapped around books from a completely different publisher. I poked the one on top with my finger and smiled at the woman behind the counter.
“I love the feel of these,” I said, rubbing the cover with my palm in big, slow circles.
The counter woman watched me, saying nothing.
Her apathy just egged me on.
“So soft!” I exclaimed, rubbing more vigorously.
She busied herself at her computer screen. When she looked over again her bored expression quickly morphed to disgust. Because I had by then picked up the book and was rubbing it against my face. Too much? Especially as I did not end up buying the book? My face was clean. Plus I did purchase other things while I was there.
Theda Bara yanking out her hair. Anita Loos looking lovely and troubled. Flannery O’Connor on crutches with her pet peacock.
Aimee Bender’s “Willful Creatures”? Karen Russell’s “St. Lucy’s Home For Girls Raised By Wolves”? Paul Auster’s “The New York Trilogy”?–( cover by Art Spiegelman). Flann O’Brien’s classic “The Third Policeman”? I bought one of these fiction things that day, I’m pretty sure.
If you think rubbing a book on your face in public demonstrates a lack of Restraint or Good Taste– I’ll wager you never experienced these trenchant squirrel-gland-smooth covers firsthand. They are irresistible. Anyone with an iota of humanity would be rubbing these books anyplace they could be rubbed oh molly bloom yes.
Their content is generally way above par as well.
Unrelated Addendum #1: Kit Dunsmore is now in the Great Blogs sidebar. She’s a writer, gardener, and sometimes award-winning armadillo-builder. Her posts are insightful, honest and– especially if you’re a fiction writer– instructive.
Unrelated Addendum #2: Nothing beats browsing for books in an old grimy used bookstore. Or even in a clean spanking fresh used bookstore. However. I recently had an epiphany that I needed to buy something NEW if I didn’t want books to vanish. No, I don’t mean Amazon.
I mean stepping outside and handing cash to an honest-to-God independent book retailer. Personal Chicago favorites would be Women and Children First, Quimby’s, Unabridged, Chicago Comics, Third Coast Comics, Book Cellar, Afterwords (upper floor is new books), and– even though their huge selection is overwhelmingly used–
Here’s the clincher– EVERYTHING you buy at Open Books helps fund literacy in Chicago. This is a great, good-hearted bookstore run by a studious-looking fella named Kevin** who is light years beyond “well-read.” http://www.open-books.org/about/
In these uncertain and virtual, albeit thrilling, times– actual three dimensional books with weight and heft and colorful, clever and (sometimes) creepy-smooth covers are vital.
Go out there– wherever you are– and buy a freaking book.
Favorite Chicago used bookstores in alphabetical order:
Armadillo’s Pillow, Bookman’s Corner: Rare Medium Well Done, Bookworks, The Gallery, Myopic, Ravenswood Used, Selected Works, and Uncharted Books.
Memorable statement by a very loud book customer: “I am looking for a copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Warlock!”
Best book blurbs: “Appalling! Terrifying! Wonderful!” “Cruelty! Lust! Hatred!”
Let these be my epitaphs.
Thanks for reading. Peace out.
*have some more Dzanc books now including surreally-super local author Jac Jemc
**He is temporarily away– everyone misses him. Open Books is an amazing place. I apologize for being terrible about names, by the way.