Wednesday, December 06, 2006


1. I was reading Slate this morning, and bristled at this (in a review by Caroline Moorhead):

"Written as a series of alternating sections or flashbacks, What Is the What—bad title, terrible cover—calls itself a novel but was created closely out of the story told to Eggers by Valentino Achak Deng, who reached Atlanta, after 14 years in refugee camps, in 2001."
But I think it's a great title! I don't know if this was intentional, but there's something Gertrude Stein-y about it, and the whole idea of an autobiography written by someone else is also of course GS-y. And the cover seems excellent to me—not just the image, but the cover's textbook feel, which triggers a tactile memory of school days (i.e., the period of childhood taken by Deng).

It seems like a positive review overall (I just skimmed the rest), but that absolute judgment —"bad title, terrible cover"!—went so against my own gut reaction (upon seeing/hefting the book) that I decided it was time to stop surfing and get to work. At least after posting this.

2. For a boost: Jenny quotes from a delightful Jessica Mitford letter.

3. I have seen an actual physical copy of the Believer's Visual Issue. A lot of meat on these bones! And it looks tremendous. The cover is especially ingenious: Once you pull away the "art cards" featuring Kehinde Wiley's paintings, you see...well, I won't say. But it's one of those fun surprise revelations, like...oh, the Velvets' banana cover!


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