Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Barrel Vaulted Room


Most serious readers are likely familiar with the great list of books put out by NYRB – the New York Review of Books. Not only do they have an amazing selection, but their cover design is invariably gorgeous, practically a reason in itself to buy some of their titles. I loved the cover of Stoner and The Pilgrim Hawk and Novels in Three Lines, but the stark beauty of A Sorrow Beyond Dreams tops them all.

The cover is a photograph by James Casebere called "A Barrel Vaulted Room." I’m afraid you can’t appreciate it fully here but the tone is a chalky greenish grey, cool and institutionally atmospheric. It’s bare, monochromatic and somehow sumptuous in its austerity. Even the cot may be made of stone. It looks more like a painting than a photograph, not least because of its simplicity. And weirdly enough, the photograph looks even better with the black NYRB title square plunk in the middle, pulling the shadows in the photograph to the forefront.

A Sorrow Beyond Dreams itself is a memoir of Peter Handke’s mother, which he wrote after her she killed herself at the age of 51. For me, what the cover does in relation to the story is emphasize the solitude and loneliness each of us lives with, how permanent it is. Really a wonderful pairing.

7 comments:

Tricia said...

My favorite is the NYRB edition of The Waste Books. It's like a phenomenological peacock.

SarahJane said...

ok, i looked that one up and i think i have to have it. crazy title, too.

Kass said...

I agree. Stunning.

Tricia said...

YOU SHOULD, and when you order it, also order Lichtenberg and the Little Flower Girl, by Gert Hoffmann. These books are best read together. Make a nice dumpling soup and settle down.

SUMMA POLITICO said...

Here is a link, the portal to everything Handke on the web:

http://handke-magazin.blogspot.com/

Kathleen said...

Gorgeous. Sad.

ArtSparker said...

There's a wierd death/not death because inorganic thing going on with that cover...

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