To a bookshop for Easter. Browsing in the contemporary classics paperback section with your teenage daughter.
You alight upon an old favourite. Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits.
‘Wait, you have to read this. Has one of the great author endorsement quotes of all time. From Fay Weldon. Where is it…’
It cannot be found on the current paperback edition. Fay has perhaps passed her sell-by date as a blurb-giver who still resonates with readers.
Luckily some of us remember. Word for word. Because it is burned in our consciousness. For if we had ever had the talent and perseverance and actually written a book, it is the praise we could only ever dream of.
It was, she said, the ‘perfect novel – now that’s written the rest of us can all go home.’
Who wouldn’t want that adorning their jacket?
The current publishing imprint, obviously.
So they have ditched that quote from the 1980s along with the cover artwork. But they have kept one thing. The typesetting. That distinctive font from the Black Swan books of that era. For those with long memories, something so redolent of Mary Wesley, of early Howard Jacobson and of multi-million selling Bill Bryson.
‘Please read it. You’ll love it.’ An imploring father. A brief synopsis of the plot.
Followed by a shake of the head from the teenager as she flicks through the pages.
‘Sorry. It just looks like shit.’
Somewhere, within the bowels of large English-language publishers around the world, decisions are being made and signed off by representatives from many different departmental functions: that it is not worth the money to reset the type for books that may have been in print for decades. Whereas there is an automatic assumption that cover images and the names of blurb-givers should change to be more contemporaneous, not so typefaces.
Worth pushing that reset button, maybe?