We've discussed certain of the brand-related aspects of Hawthorne's cover designs elsewhere; this separate section is meant to deal more with philosophy. To wit: Hawthorne is a small house. Most of the books shown here were printed in editions of 5,000 or less. We know we can't outshout the big boys; we know Hawthorne is not going to get the shelf presence that the larger publishers command. So we altered the brief, and set about developing a cover that—without abdicating its sales duty – would resonate a little more with the content of the book it supports than might be expected. This comes from being pretty close to the text, as we read each of them through three or four times over the course of typesetting.
We feel that a book is a complete object, and that a cover should act as an entry and exit point for the reader, offering suggestions, even, on how a reader might approach the text. Accordingly, we engage the whole cover; here, in the case of Seaview, the reader doesn't even encounter the grass component of the design until she opens the book: it is a transitional moment, between holding and reading. This is a large part of the Hawthorne brand promise: we can't be bigger, but we can be different, more thoughtful, and hopefully better. Images and descriptions of books from the last eight seasons follow.
Hawthorne went to market for the first time with two collections of essays. For the first—a curated anthology of west coast reactions to the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11, we took the texts of the individual submissions and layered them over one another to suggest the towers of the World Trade Center. For Poe Ballantine's tales of his lifelong search for satori via a series of low-paying jobs, Greyhound rides and residential motels, we pulled a sample from our postcard collection, transcending cheap carpet, drapery and the glowing blue of the television into a vision of Old Glory.
Season two featured Scott Nadelson's nuanced book of stories documenting a suburban New Jersey family. The Stanley of the title is the book's McGuffin, the family's elderly cat who totters from story to story, always at the lip of the curtain between life and death. The lillustration is an X-ray of our late, beloved 16-pound Manx, Joe. Never throw anything away. (Saving Stanley won the Oregon Book Award for short fiction in 2003). For D'Arcy Fallon's memoir of her years at a fundamentalist commune on the Northern California coast, we paired an ancient postcard detail of Raphael's St. Catherine of Alexandria with our own fog-soaked image of the Pacific.
If you're sensing a pattern here, let us help you: no production budget. It was becoming a point of pride not to do anything on these covers that we couldn't make or dig up ourselves. It would be just like it was back in art school, if we had gone to art school. Which we didn't.
From left: Mark Mordue's Dastgah, an account of the Australian music critic's travels in Asia Minor. We layered images from our collection of Iranian and Indian printed ephemera into a backlit image of the head of Pinch principal Adam McIsaac. For Poe Ballantine's debut novel God Clobbers Us All, an account of hard partying and hallucinogen use in 1970s San Diego, we used an image of McIsaac's kitchen window and a pattern of transparent Disneyfied ladybugs floating in the middle ground (real or imaginary ladybugs being a recurrent motif in the book). Peter Donahue's Madison House is a historical novel dealing with the controversial regrading of Victorian Seattle. eBay delivered a postcard showing the regrading (destroying a hill with water cannon) of the self-same hill that forms the novel's context.
Kassten Alonso's debut novel Core, a neo-Faulknerian reading of the Hades/Persephone myth. We opened up our Gothic trick bag (Victorian Bible, engravings of dead beetles, etc.) and created an obsessive collage around a portrait of a muddy bathtub (mud and bathtub being big components of the story).
Michael Strelow's novel The Greening of Ben Brown concerns the struggle for a river between a chemical company and a utility lineman who has been turned green. That's a Pinch hand, and our photograph of the landscape if the middle Willamette River, where the story takes place. By happy accident, a drawing of the Willamette watershed left over from another job tied the two images together and stood in for the lightning that transformed the hero.
That's McIsaac's wife's arm standing in for The Cantor's Daughter, Scott Nadelson's second collection of stories about people in moments of crucial transition. Pinch colleague Mark Conahan re-created Rousseau's jungle on Lawrence Welk's soundstage for Poe Ballantine's second novel, which follows the antihero of God Clobbers Us All in search of the Noble Savage.
The inaugural title in Hawthorne's Rediscovery series was Richard Wiley's PEN/Faulkner winner Soldiers in Hiding tells the story of American-born Japanese conscripted into the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, and examines what became of them in the years following the war.
Season six brought us Monica Drake's celebrated Clown Girl and also showed us that the Internet makes it easier to find a rubber chicken when you want one. Toby Olson's PEN/Faulkner winner Seaview follows a golf hustler across the American desert as he tries to return his dying wife to her childhood home on Cape Cod. The story also involves cocaine dealing, a Pima Indian activist named Bob White, and the abiding presence of Buckminster Fuller's Tensegrity sphere, ably illustrated for the cover by Mark Conahan.
The third book in the Rediscovery series was Lynne Sharon Schwartz' erotic novel Leaving Brooklyn, concerning a young woman coming of age in McCarthy-era New York. We actually bought a photograph for that one, as our clip file is a little thin on interior images of the BMT in 1954. Mr. Ballantine's second book of essays 501 Minutes to Christ returns him to the road and the search for enlightenment.
Hawthorne's eighth season featured the debut of Southern author Gin Phillips, whose nuanced coming-of-age tale of an Alabama coal-mining town during the depression has returned superb reviews, is entering its second printing, and features a cover image by another Southern author with whom you may be familiar: Eudora Welty. This season's Rediscovery title was a reissue of Tom Spanbauer's harrowing debut Faraway Places which shows that the South cannot hold exclusive license on the Gothic, whose darkness falls equally in rural Idaho.
Falling halfway between the eighth and upcoming ninth seasons was Tiina Nunnally's translation of Peter H. Fogtdal's novel The Tsar's Dwarf, a dark histori-political romance about those in the periphery of courtly life during Peter the Great's reign, as seen through the eyes of a female dwarf.