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Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Book of Dead Philosophers

Design by John Gall

I was a philosophy major and was even silly enough to go to grad school to continue studying it, but reading sentences like "The call must do its calling without any hubbub" (Heidegger, Being and Time) convinced me to jump ship after two years and find a job. So to me, this cover reads not only as a headstone for dead philosophers but for philosophy itself, nicely kicked over with relish. But please contribute your own less cynical interpretation in the comments.

22 comments:

Adam Rothstein said...

I'm actually in the same boat; two years in, now two years out.

The cover design speaks to me about the current state of philosophy--no more works of philosophy, now only books about books. Critchley's volume takes it almost one ironic step further. He has given us a book about those who wrote books, and specifically those who are dead (to say nothing of the diminished life of their work) the subjects within now even more assuredly flat characters that we may collect and place on the covers of our own books.

As such, it is not just a book of books, or a book of authors of books, but a book of authors of books taken from an almost pedantic angle--just another tome brought to class to flop on the desk. For reference? For fashion? For trivia? Did you hear the one about Schopenhauer? Who knows. You have to love the comments at the top taking center stage; the only thing black and white in philosophy anymore is another's opinion of you (and it may as well serve as a title).

Of course, I'm just taking cheap shots at the book by way of the cover (perhaps the ultimate example and homage to pedantic philosophy). By way of full disclosure, and to bring myself back from that brink of necro-nizing philosophers/philosophy (would it be a review without a neologism?) I should say that during my tour of duty as a philosopher I was actually lucky to be a student of Prof. Critchley, and found him and his work to anything but dead, and certainly not pedantic. In fact, knowing his personality I would bet that if he had any hand in the cover choice it was chosen very much tongue-in-cheek, and if he did not, he would certainly find any humorous irony that we might to be just as humorous.

Anonymous said...

John Gall is the designer

Ian Brian Shimkoviak said...

Brilliant. The angle and all makes it feel like a dead book...

I like it. Very simple and pure, but perfect.

what a leap in terms of readability with that angle. So much white space too. good stuff.

Sergio said...

Smart and very funny.

And I think the part I appreciate most is how the quote actually HELPS the design..... by activating and framing the empty space.

It's a fantastic example of turning an (editorial) design constraint into an asset.

Great cover.

Ken Smith said...

I enjoy the nerve of using a word like "necropolis" as a selling point on the cover, too.

David Drummond said...

Perfect. Once you've seen this solution there could not be any other. Perfect.

I.N.Kwell said...

Ever heard the one about the philosophy professor who, for the finale, write "Why?" on the board and asks the students to answer it? One kid writes "Why not?" in his blue book, and walks out.
He gets the best grade in the class.

birdbrainbb.net said...

All I know is I hated my Philosophy 101 class, but this cover is so awesome I want to read the book.

Siong Chin said...

I went to design school and, for whatever reason, philosophy classes were compulsory. I hated Heidegger. I hated Foucault. I hated Kierkegaard. I hated Nietzsche. Now I don't exactly know what this book is about, but the cover idea, and indeed the title itself, reflects perfectly my bitter feelings towards the 4 years of esoteric mumbojumbo I had to endure. It's a beautifully done cover!

Masked Man said...

Very... tongue-in-cheek. The only possible way to deal with this mess called philosophy, in my opinion.

GH said...

This is a paperback original. I think it's kind of funny that the hardcover is "dead" but the paperback is still upright.

Mark Melnick said...

I'm going to jump on the pile here and say this will undoubtedly be one of the best of '09. As David said, just perfect.

(I'm even amazed at how legible the title and author are, given the perspective ... Even the Vintage marketing dept can cheer this one.)

Courtney Baker said...

I adore John Gall's designs! Not only is this smart but it's also very beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I love it, but the aspect ratio seems awkwardly tall. I made a plain rectangle with the same ratio, just to be sure that it wasn't just the white space that made it seem so tall, but it really is...tall. When open, it will still be taller than wide!

David Gee said...

I think the tomb-stone/coffin-like aspect ratio helps push the idea even further. This is great.

H3NR7 said...

DAMN YOU GALL!

karen said...

I love the concept of this cover!
And as usual I didn't see this until you posted it here.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

brilliant as usual.

-sockwell

Ralphy said...

Nice cover. I imaging if philosophy students had to take design courses they would have an analogous distaste for the "casual mumbojumbo" of design circles.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of Wittgenstein's comment that once you climb the ladder you can kick it away. In a sense, all the dead philosophers have now been tossed down by us who came later.

Christian in NYC said...

I marvel at how Gall must have fought with those idiot Sales people who assuredly said stuff like "can you make the title larger/pop more?"

Or, more likely, the Sales people didn't give a rip about this one, which tends to be the only way good/interesting design work happens. . . or so it seems.

Who will give me odds that this book is way more interesting to look at than to read? [Because it does contain contain Slavoj Zizek, because he's not dead yet, thank goodness.]

Katie Alender said...

I'm late to the party, but I love this cover.