Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Biographies, Autobiographies and Memoirs

For the most part, the covers of autobiographies and biographies are a wasteland of uninspired duds. By far the majority feature primped-up studio portraits, where the author (or "author" in many cases) of the book obviously either (mistakenly) regards themselves as gorgeous, or funny. In both case, the word that springs to mind when I see these faces on bookshop shelves is "punchable".

Also pretty bad are those biographies which have people pretending to be the subjects on the covers, rather than the real people, thanks to the wonders of movie tie-in deals.

Much better are those books where, due to either the author/subject's lack of overwhelming ego or else a combination of their being dead and a publisher being willing to overlook the obvious, the portrait used is either cunningly oblique...

..not recognisable as the author without the prompting of the name on the cover (and yet communicating some essential part of their character)...

..or else frankly odd.

Finally, you have those autobiographies which can get entirely away from the need to picture their author on the cover. This may be due to the fact that nobody would have a clue who they were anyway, or else the book is a long-established classic which allows someone with a bit of flair to have a go at the cover. The best of these often feature no recognisable human beings at all.

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