Wednesday, February 18, 2009


more covers

As a follow-up to my previous post, I recommend a "Time" photo essay on Chip Kidd.

It also includes his comments about each piece. My one disappointment was that among the best covers in the essay is a book by Augustin Burroughs -- in my opinion an even bigger fraud than Jane Smiley.

What a waste of design talent.

Monday, February 16, 2009


You can tell these books by their covers.

Over on the Abe Books newsletter, Beth Carswell writes about the 30 Novels Worth Buying for the Cover Alone. She notes:
Let's hear it for the book designers. For every Milan Kundera, Jeffrey Eugenides and Aldous Huxley, there is a Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich, a Leah Carlson-Stanisic and a Gregg Kulick – all designers of memorable cover art. They give a visual perspective to somebody else's written art, find balance in color and shape, simplicity and uniqueness. A book must stand out on the bookstore bookshelf yet cover designers rarely receive the recognition that authors do. In appreciation of these unsung artists, here are 30 of my favorite fiction covers – all worth buying for the cover alone.

What a great concept! Here are some of the examples: Arkansas, by John Brandon, cover design by Keith Shore; Rant, by Chuck Palahniuk, cover design by Michael Collica; The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera, cover design by Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich; Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, cover design by Gregg Kulick; My Mistress' Sparrow is Dead, by Jeffrey Eugenides, cover design by Leah Carlson-Stanisic; and 25 others.

All available new or used, I am sure, from Abe Books.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009


Is it just for Catholics?

There is some controversy going on over Boston College's decision to put crucifixes and other Christian artwork in each of its 151 classrooms. BC is a Catholic institution that, like DePaul, has a strong presence in the secular community. What do I mean by that? I mean that the schools are affiliated with the Catholic Church, both historically and in real life, but they are famous for lots of other things as well.

The newsletter "Inside Higher Ed" ran a story on the Boston College reaction. “I think it’s in an identity crisis,” [IHE quoted] Dwayne Eugène Carpenter, chair of the romance languages and literatures department of Boston College. “At the same time that it wants to proclaim its Catholic identity, it also wants to recruit the best. You can’t recruit the best by placing crucifixes in every classroom. You’re simply going to limit the number of people who will come here. And I’ve already heard of several faculty who have said, ‘You know, this is not a welcoming place, this is not the place that hired me, and I’ll be looking for a job elsewhere.’ ”

The Boston Globe notes a different point of view: "Personally, I'm glad that the university decided to increase the number of crucifixes in classrooms on campus," [they quote BC student Patrick Fouhy.] "Boston College welcomes students, faculty, and staff of all religious persuasions, but at the end of the day it is a Jesuit, Catholic institution and the crucifixes are a nice reminder of that."

And Elissa Klein, director of Jewish life at Boston C
ollege, said: "I spoke to several Jewish undergraduates tonight, who were all apathetic about the new religious art. It seems that many failed to notice it entirely. Others found it a minor change."

As a DePaul parent, I find the university's Catholic identity encouraging but not overpowering. Then again, I am Catholic. My son is not required to take any courses in specifically Catholic topics, but he does tell me he'll have to take some kind of ethics. He's looking forward to it. My son has not attended mass regularly since middle school, and I don't think he has gone at all for a couple of years. We did get him to go to my mother's (Presbyterian) church for Christmas Eve last year, but there's a definite gap between making Grammie happy and living his own life.

I would love for DePaul to make my kid feel more connected to the church he grew up in. I would welcome the presence of religious symbols in the classrooms. I think there is a difference between acknowledging Catholic identity and proselytizing, and I think as an institution DePaul knows where to draw the line. It isn't just about going to mass or hanging up crucifixes, anyway. The Vincentian tradition is one of service to the community, helping those in need whether they are Catholic or not. Correct me if I'm wrong, but unlike some Evangelical Christian charities, the Society of St. Vincent DePaul does not require aid recipients to attend a sermon or religious service as a condition of aid. If my son is any example, Depaul students take pride in their connection with "Vinnie."

I heard this joke when I was volunteering in a Catholic school: There was a kid who drove his mother and teachers crazy with his terrible behavior. His parents sent him to public schools, charter schools, independent schools and even a Presbyterian school. He was expelled from each and every one. Finally his parents, hearing that the Catholic were strong in discipline, enrolled him at "Our Lady of Fatima." So that their son could start with a clean slate, they decided not to tell the principal, Sr. Mary Tranquila, about his previous difficulties.

After his first week his mother went in, with some trepidation, check how he was doing. "Oh, he's a delightful child, " Tranquila told her. "We're thrilled to have him." The mom checked back again in a month: Same answer. This kept happening. Finally, she just had to ask her son, "What is so special about that school? Is it the teaching methods? The other kids?" Johnny shook his head to all her suggestions.

"They're serious about rules there, Ma," he said. "They nailed one kid to the wall!"

For information on Vincentian and Catholic art on Depaul's campus, go to their website.

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Monday, February 02, 2009


Viva futbol Americano!

I had a great Super Bowl Sunday. First I went out to lunch with my husband, and we ignored the annoying pre-game show that was playing above the bar in favor of conversing with each other. Topics: our old neighborhoods, winter in Chicago, and what ingredients make the best casseroles. Then we went home and I watched a couple of old TV programs on DVD. In between episodes, I checked NBC but never caught any football action, just a lot of boring talk and a couple of good commercials (as well as some lame promos for NBC shows.) When I finished the Torchwood disc, I watched a profile of Obama on CBS. Sometime before or after the profile, I switched to the game and watched the Cardinals thrillingly pull ahead in the last few minutes of play, then saw the Steelers win. Also thrilling, but disappointing.

This morning I watched the rest of the Super Bowl commercials on the Advertising Age online newsletter.

Now that's the way to watch football. My biggest problem with televised sports (and with baseball in general) is that they spend so much time not playing. Old-fashioned commentators complain that ice hockey and soccer are ill-suited to television viewing because they don't pause often enough for commercials. That's a bad thing? I watch Mexican soccer on Univision and Telemundo, and it is both exciting and heavily sponsored. They've figured out how to run commercials at the bottom and sides of the screen while the game is going on. I'm sure it is also an advantage that my Spanish is not good enough to understand the -- probably vapid -- announcers' comments.

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