Thursday, April 21, 2011

Book by the Cover

I'm a big fan of vintage romance novels circa the 1950s and 60s.  I hunt for them in secondhand bookstores, in the past travelling many miles to do so.


Because they are so sweet and stereotypical, yet include a great deal of variety in terms of style and scope.  Many of the vintage titles in my collection are set in Africa or South America back when it wasn't possible to check for the best airline prices online.  They were innocent yet adventurous, just like the heroines who star in them, often the younger sibling or relative of a pioneering Englishman living abroad.

Just as the heroines are invariably young (very young, compared to contemporary titles -- often barely out of adolescence), the heroes are usually older sophisticated men of the world.  They are the manliest of the species when the species was considerably hardier.

But, really, what drew me to these books in the first place were the covers.  Or, to be more precise, the cover art.

Illustrated covers have always captured my imagination. A photograph, while lovely, can only show you the faces of the models who pose for them (Fabio overdose, anyone?). But a drawing done by hand is evocative.  I can fill in the story between the pencil lines, adding my own touch in my imagination. Plus, those vintage drawings are absolutely adorable. The nearly cartoonish quality to some of them remind me of well done anime, except more realistic. Or maybe they just remind me of my childhood dolls, with their clear waxen features and smirking semi-smiles.

Whatever this elusive allure is, it is borne out of nostalgia -- for an innocent time I lived through and an innocent age I didn't get to experience.

Photo courtesy of nuttakit at

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