Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Paperback Cover Writers

"It's the dirty story of a dirty man and his clinging wife doesn't understand."

I've complained about this sort of thing before (and here). I read two short novels on the weekend: Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. At one point I noticed the back covers. Here's a couple of sentences from the first:

He knows the West better than you do. And as he tells you his story, of how he embraced the Western dream — and a Western woman — and how both betrayed him, so the night darkens.

Well, that's not how it happens, actually. Neither the woman nor the dream (his employer) in any way "betray" the protagonist, nor does he want us to think so. The night does darken, for what it's worth.

Here's what we find on the back of the Penguin Popular Classics paperback edition of Conrad's Heart of Darkness:

On a boat tethered in the Thames, Marlow, the Captain, recounts to his crew his experiences in Africa when he led an expedition into the impenetrable and mysterious core of the jungle.

Not even the story of the "expedition" gets it quite right, does it? But more striking is the fact that Marlow was not captain of the Nellie as she lies at anchor in the Thames. Nor was he talking to the crew. He was talking to a lawyer, an accountant, and the narrator, who are among the guests of "the director of companies" (and captain of the Nellie) on his yacht.

What hope is there for reading when a publisher can't get basic details of neither its new releases nor its its hundred-year-old classics right?

PS: Just as I was sitting down to write this post I noticed that the title of track six on the 60th Anniversary Blue Note reissue of Lee Morgan's The Sixth Sense is given correctly on the back cover but as "The Cry of My People" on face of the CD itself. It's not the same kind of mistake, I guess.

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