Is Peter De Vries at a Bookstore? & Eight Iconic Book Covers

Peter De Vries surrounded by books, but where?

I am fascinated by the photo of Peter De Vries on the jacket of his best-selling novel, The Tunnel of Love.  I was surprised that he looks so ordinary: I had pictured him as a young Groucho Marx, because in one of De Vries’s novels, the hero believes he is Groucho Marx.  But, no, De Vries has that rumpled writerish aura that you can presumably get away with in New York but not in the provinces. In profile, I can see the bags under his eyes. No cigar.

My question is:  where are all these books?  Is he at home?  Who arranges books like this at home?  Is he at a bookstore? If you can write a cogent explanation, I will “like” your blog posts, Instagram, etc., every day for a year. 


Some book covers stick with me forever.  Take the cover art of the mass market paperback of Kurt Vonnegut’s essays, Wampeters Foma & Granfalloons.  Kurt drew the caricature of himself with a tear in his  eye, but there is no information about the designer of the lettering and the cover.

This is one of Vonnegut’s greatest books.  And if only I had read the essay, “Teaching the Unteachable,” before I went to a writers’ conference, I would not have  wept when the professor informed me that I could sell my story to a feminist magazine but not because of the writing. 

I did not need to hear that on my two-week summer vacation at a writers’ conference. Perhaps this is the kind of tough criticism writers receive in writing programs.

“Then why was I accepted?” I asked.

Vonnegut explains what we students need to know: that the conference is a way for writers to make some money.  He says that most  people know you can’t be taught to write well.

…writers’ conferences continue to multiply in the good old American summertime.  Sixty-eight of them are listed in last April’s issue of The Writer.  Next year there will be more. They are harmless.  They are shmoos.   

And then he goes on:

“Who comes to writers’ conferences?” you ask.  A random sample of twenty people will contain six recent divorcees, three wives in middle life, five schoolteachers of no particular age or sex, two foxy grandmas, one sweet old widower with true tales to tell about railroading in Idaho, one real writer, one not merely angry but absolutely furious young man, and one physician with forty years worth of privileged information that he wants to sell for a blue million.

I was one of the schoolteachers, for God’s sake! But I did enjoy the company of the other students. And the professor was kind after our initial meeting. Really, it is the teacher’s job at these conferences to encourage amateurs !

I love the covers of Hermann Hesse’s books, especially the ones designed by Milton Glaser.  There were, however, also mass market paperbacks with the unsuitable covers we are all resigned to.   What do you think?  Milton Glaser’s Gertrude, or the mass market cover art of Steppenwolf?

I possibly owned this edition, because it was cheaper than the more artistic trade paperback.

Although my Popular Library mass market paperbacks of Margaret Drabble’s novels are falling apart, I love the cover photos of her , which were taken by Jill Krementz, Vonnegut’s second wife.  Drabble looks young and casual with her long hair, unpretentious sweater, and floral skirt on the cover of Jerusalem the Golden. This edition was published in 1977.

I love the greems on the cover of the Vintage Hardy edition of Far from the Madding CrowdThere is a second-hand book sticker on the back cover, which presumably blocks the name of the designer. Too bad!

Dover editions are always a pleasure, and I love this 2005 edition of George MacDonald’s Phantastes:  A Faery Romance.  The illustrations are by pre-Raphaelite artist Arthur Hughes, and they fit the mood beautifully.

The Noonday Press’s covers of Colette’s books, designed by Jacqueline Schuman, are gorgeous.  I have a 1999 edition, the 19th printing of Colette’s My Mother’s House and Sido FSG has reissued these books with new covers, but I like the graceful lines of the sketches on the earlier covers. 

I keep meaning to read Now, Voyager, by Olive Higgins Prouty, who also wrote Stella Dallas. The Feminist Press has reprinted both novels in their Femmes Fatales series.  I am afraid to read Stella Dallas, because I wept buckets over the movie, so Now, Voyager seems the safer place to start. I love the scene from from the movie with Bette Davis on the cover!

What is your favorite book cover? Do you go for Folio Society hardbacks or cheap paperbacks? And do you ever buy books for the cover? 

Tasteless: Would You Read Books with These Covers?

You might hesitate to read the classics if you came across these paperback editions. I cannot believe these covers sell books!

  1. Oh, dear, have these women had lip jobs? Penguin, Penguin, you are letting us down.

2. This vamp on the cover of this Wordsworth Classic is certainly not Mrs. Dalloway!

3. What a terrifying cover! I would never buy this Harvest paperback edition of Katherine Anne Porter’s elegant short stories! The old cover features a rose in the left-hand corner. Wonder why they changed it…

4. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a terrible novel – Cornelia Otis Skinner wrote a brilliant satire of it – but I do not actually dislike this 1951 cover.

5. Dearest Madame Bovary, you look a bit slutty . I pictured you as pretty and fashionable but less like a 1960s model – and is that a Regency gown? No, I would not buy this 1965 Airmont edition.

6. Wuthering Heights is one of my favorites, but it’s all too easy to go wrong with the cover art. I cannot say Penguin was having a good day in 2009 when the design team approved this.

And that’s all for the present.