Yes, my reviews always carry the banner ‘between the covers‘ and, at the end of the day, it’s the written content which counts. Carefully worked covers are part of the package for me, though. Of course we have to live with – and work with – digital editions, and they have their moments. They’re cheaper and in some ways more convenient, but a physical book, decently printed and bound is for many of us the nonpareil. The cover designs for – to name just a few – books by Christopher Fowler, John Connolly, Jim Kelly and Stacey Halls always add to the experience, and now Penguin have done something rather marvellous and secured images by Romare Bearden to grace their new editions of the superb Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones novels by Chester Himes.
Bearden (September 2, 1911 – March 12, 1988) was an artist of many talents who, as well as being a semi-professional baseball player, also composed music. He served with the American army during WW2, but it is his pioneering work with collage that has attracted the editors at Penguin. The cover of A Rage In Harlem is Summertime 1967, which is owned by The Saint Louis Art Museum. They say:
“This work….. which belongs to a small number of large-scale collages he created in the 1960s, exemplifies the artist’s commitment to the African-American experience. A woman eats an ice-cream cone in front of a brownstone, a man sits on a chair, and two oversized faces peer from behind window shades. The ice cream and open windows evoke the summer’s heat. The woman’s pose suggests a singer holding a microphone, and the title summons Cole Porter’s lyric that “the living is easy.”
Enjoy the artwork, and look out for my review of A Rage In Harlem coming up soon.