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Jackets Required: The World Without Us


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By Fwis -- Publishers Weekly, 8/21/2007 3:00:00 PM

This is the latest installment in a weekly column by Fwis, a graphic design group that blogs on book jacket design. The Fwis designers judge a recent book by its cover each week on PublishersWeekly.com.

Title: The World Without Us

Designer: Pete Garceau

Author: Alan Weisman

Publisher: St. Martin's/Thomas Dunne

Our foundations give way while plants flourish and exotic animals roam the streets. Our plastics remain for eons while our structures vanish within centuries. You can almost envision the Earth stretching its legs and taking a deep breath of fresh air. It's a dramatic, if simple, premise, supported with exacting research. And yet we're presented with this vanilla wafer of a cover.

With all the amazing possibilities for visual metaphor and drama that are inherent to a book like this, why go with such a bland cover? Harmless illustration with harmless type and harmless colors so friendly and subtle as to induce thoughts of snuggles and siestas. And then the moment of clarity: just as Weisman has shrouded his environmental message in pseudo-fiction in the hopes of speaking more gently to readers of the problems we are facing, so the cover has wrapped itself in a thick layer of sugar-coated sweetness in an effort to not alarm potential readers. "Yes, I am a book about the environment. But I'm harmless! No, really!" The result, much like one too many eclairs, is a bit stomach-turning.



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