Iconography

I wrote a couple of days ago about my experience of the book’s independent life out in the world. I have to hope that my guidance and care in its upbringing will lead it to a successful career, but that’s now outside my control.

But another thing that’s outside my control is the way that the book, and I, are represented. Lots of articles have been headed by a thumbnail of the book cover, or the bland author photo I sent to the Press, or the somewhat more interesting photo that Janet Oberto took of me at a college event a few years ago, when I was driving four computers and two LCD projectors at once. Some publications have commissioned their own specific graphics for coverage. I’ve written thank-you notes to both Nate Kitch and Cathryn Virginia for their ingenuity in capturing the tone of the articles they illustrated, as well as to Isaac Tobin for the book and book cover design.

Jhumpa Lahiri wrote a lovely little book three years back called The Clothing of Books, in which she argues that the stuff around the text—the cover illustration, the author photo, the blurbs—can often work at cross purposes with the text itself. She wishes for the old Penguin Classics covers, like school uniforms… just the title, the author’s name, and the consistent publisher’s marks.

Anyway, all of that was brought to mind yesterday by my discovery of the weirdest artifact of this book—at least so far, and I hope ever. There’s a YouTube channel created by a user known as smokaj0000, to which three or four videos per hour are generated (almost certainly without human intervention) from articles in some selected publications. The algorithm breaks the text across a number of slides, finds some more-or-less related screen grabs to put behind it, and plays some public-domain telephone hold music that, as the Dude said, really ties the room together.

I wonder what Jhumpa Lahiri would think about authorial theme music…

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