The first one is just, well, incredible really. I mean, how can you not love the sepia water colour tones from which emerge the wispy yet sexually charged face of a strident young country woman, and, I can only assume, some sort of burly grounds-keeper-cowboy love interest, glancing enticingly beyond her shoulder. It's like Mills and Boon before the fifties workplace era. Speaking of which:
YESS!! On Call Sister! Doctor he want you gurl! But what she gonna do? Her career could be on the line if she, an independent thinking fierce sista, follow her heart into the operating theatre. But hunky white-ass Doctor - he so fine! (If you love this as much as me, then I urge you to pop over here to see Mills and Boon covers recreated in literal, photographic format. All winners, all of them.)
Now onto these guys:
A while ago I started to read If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon (no H) McGregor. It is written in an annoying, melodic sort of rhythmic, try-hard poetry, that is both too forced and too distant for me to really engage with or understand. Needless to say I hated it and gave up before I was even half way through. I resent myself for not sticking to the bastard for the long drawn out long long haul of it, but when I consider that there are so many genuinely good books to read, the guilt just fell away.
I have since learned not to trust the jacket blub when it describes the content of its pages as 'poetry.' And certainly not, 'pure poetry.' This basically means simpering, apologetic prose with no real grasp of characterization. It's also grotesquely pretentious. I love poetry but I hate prose that considers itself 'poetic.' All writing has rhythm and harmony that is tantamount to poetry. It's like saying, 'All women are stylish.' Well, some are, some aren't and that depends one whose judging the styleometer anyway. You may not agree with whoever defines this style, thinking double denim is a perfectly acceptable way to step out in public. While having elements of style it is not necessarily stylish. If you get my drift.
The next cover is He Died with a Felafel in his Hand by John Birmingham. I just found it downstairs, judged it by its colourfully graphic cover, and am now laughing my way through it as Birmingham recounts having lived in shitty houses with 'over eighty-nine people.' One of whom, as the title suggests, never went on to rent elsewhere. His style is clearly influenced by the like of Jack Kerouac (YES!) and Hunter S. Thompson (NO!) but is unique in its own sharp, sardonic, almost acrid reveal of breadline housing situations.
One good example of this is thus:
"A rat died in the living room at King Street and we didn't know. There was at least six inches of compacted rubbish between our feet and the floor. Old Ratty must have crawled in there and died of pleasure. A visitor uncovered him while groping about for a beer."
Glorious brilliance. I feel like he is describing at least four houses I have managed to previously escape from. The worst was the one with the woodwork and walls that continually gave way from the gentlest of touches, to reveal black mold. Not enhanced by the drug addicts trying to snort what they thought was cocaine off the edge of the sink. Little did they know that my smoker housemates were experimenting with teeth whitening solutions using bicarbonate of soda only the night before. They did get high.
The covers, as often is the unworded case, are fairly representative of the style and story within (like Yoga Bitch, perhaps??). Just so it's fair, here's the opening lines of If Nobody Speaks...:
"If you listen, you can hear it.
The city, it sings.
If you stand quietly, at the foot of the garden, in the middle of a street, on the roof of a house.
It's clearest at night..."
I just can't bear to copy out any more. VOMIT! It's just solipsism disguised as poetry. I want to pick up Jon (why no H, Jon?) McGregor, shake him and yell, 'Just because you don't write in full sentences and sporadically start new lines doesn't make it poetry, Jo-no-H-arse-hole-on!'. I don't know if I can even use the old 'it's experimental, doesn't quite work, but at least is experimental' line on it, like I feel a bit about Eleanor Catton's The Rehearsal. Really I think it's just fundamentally shit.
The cover, however, expresses this perfectly: The blurry bird flying off away from our heart's desires, as we wish we could also fly so easily; the Times New Roman font formatted to the RIGHT of the page = SO OUT THERE!; the brief glimpse of a row of blurry houses - that could be anyone's house, anyone's street, your street, your house, your life. This book is all of our stories.
Well fuck that.
I want felafels in corpses' hands, and sentences that remain on the same line and describe actual tangible events that I can relate to without falling into the ether of fluffy prose disguised as 'poetry.' I also want it in Helvetica and centrally aligned. Yet another example of how you really can judge a book by its cover.