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Monday, January 12, 2009

The Mercy Papers: A Memoir of Three Weeks

Designer credit to come

Help me with this one.

In New York magazine last spring, Christopher Bonanos wrote about the use of melting ice cream on book covers and jackets. Designer John Fulbrook III tells us why it's used: "In jacket design, one classic solution is using the charged object -- one that tells you more than it should. (Using ice cream) also gives you a sense of time, because the ice cream’s melting. It’s one of the rare cases where you get to add a sense of action, that urgency, to a personified object.”


At first I thought we had another such cover here, but then I noticed: these popsicles aren't melting, they're bitten (aggressively?), perhaps suggesting the anger author Robin Romm feels during her last visit with her terminally ill mother. The NY Times review describes the book as "a furious blaze" with "little mercy;" Romm's anger is "an intemperate spray of fury." Slow, melting popsicles wouldn't get that across.

I love illustrative techniques that show action and (when appropriate) the passing of time, and this is in many ways profoundly sad: the diminished popsicle communicates several levels of loss.

But what do you think: too subtle? Or if that's not the right word, does this register as whimsical, and inappropriately so?

(UPDATE: A reader suggests popsicles may be used here because they provide relief to chemo patients.)

16 comments:

Jason said...

Design and photography by Rex Bonomelli

Nick said...

Well it's definitevly too subtile for me (and for the average guy who just glances at it while book-picking).

I can't imagine why there is still some left at the end of the three weeks...

Otherwise I also love the passage of time to be part of a book cover. Do you have other examples?

Ricky said...

It makes me think that the three weeks went by very slowly, as if everything was near frozen and in slow motion (if each popsicle represents 1 week). Otherwise they'd be a melted mess.

Ricky said...

(Especially with the cold, blue background.)

Anonymous said...

Yes: whimsical, and inappropriately so.
I don't associate popsicles with death. I think: summer, vacation, school breaks, kid friendly, treats when I see this cover.

EJ

Seth Christenfeld said...

I haven't read the book, but I'm wondering if maybe popsicles show up in the narrative.

Anne Wayman said...

Great illustration, but popsicles don't seem right for what I gather is the subject matter.

I'd pick the book up at the store, but I suspect I wouldn't buy. The cover leads me to think of childhood and happiness... maybe that IS what the book is about.

Anne Wayman, now blogging at www.aboutfreelancewriting.com

Anonymous said...

Lovely cover, but it's making my teeth hurt.

Victor said...

I like the simplicity and the sense of time passing. I'd like to think the imagery says anything about what the book is about. The concept is somewhat vague. It would make me pick it up and look at the back cover for clues. I hope I wouldn't be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

How long does it take to eat a popsicle?

Adrian Paul said...

I'm thinking that a near-empty juice or pop bottle with the label torn off, sitting on a tired looking wooden table would've been more appropriate. Like, what happens when you're sitting in a hospital waiting room for hours, start peeling labels off . . .

tim said...

brilliant composition and execution. the only thing i'm not sure about is the drop shadows, the popsicles seem to be floating… which i guess adds to the haunting feel.

ecs said...

This seems to be an example of a concept that's well thought-out, but whose final execution leaves something to be desired aesthetically.

Or perhaps that it leaves me feeling cold and alienated is the idea...

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Anonymous said...

there is a connection between the popsicles and chemo patients. for sure.
to me the popsicle takes on a figurative pose. it is the mother. disappearing. and lets not forget, sometimes graphic is just graphic. such as the drop-shadows, the colors, the last little piece on the third stick.

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