Does a book's cover steal from us?
Back in 1977, in the dark ages before the internet and Facebook, Susan Sontag wrote in her long essay "On Photography" that we live in an 'image choked world'. (I wonder what she'd say now, when our appetite for images seems insatiable?)
Do images steal from our imagination? Or do they inspire? When I was writing Irina The Wolf Queen, I described the appearance of some characters, but omitted details about Irina, and her friend, Prince Andor. My hope was that young readers would imagine them how they wanted; even project themselves into those characters.
And then, there came the book cover. Decisions had to be made. The designer drew Irina blonde, and the image was attractive and eyecatching enough, we hoped, for readers to choose it from the bookstore shelf. Commercial imperatives intruded on the pure innocence of imagining.
I still wonder whether it is possible to imagine Irina in some other way, or whether the cover has made that impossible? What do you think?
Comments (from Facebook discussion page, Leah Swann - Writer.)
Sharon Thompson: Stunning image. Yes, the competitive nature of the market place and the paucity of time (few long, leisurely, loiterings browsing in book shops today) demand work be represented visually and appeal instantly. Gosh, was there really a time before the internet???
Lachie Swann: Images steal from our imagination in the same way that in-articulation prevents us from shaping reality.
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Leah Swann: Yes, both rob us of the chance to bring out something, however small, that is unique.
Joanne Kyrkilis: Unfortunately I think the image sticks. While I understand the commercial imperative...it does impose on our ability to imagine our own Irina and identify with her.
Anne Hadley: I think when we read no matter the cover our own imagination takes over The cover at first glance maybe important but as I read I confess I shape my own visions.
Leah Swann: Yes, I'm the same, but I find if I've seen the film of a book the actor tends take over from my imagined character.