I really like this cover illustration by Adrian Tomine for the New Yorker (Feb 25, 2008). I like it so much that I’m going to talk about each frame right now. This will be sort of like ‘brain storming.’
[Going in conventional reading order]
I. I like that the writer is female, kinda seems like it would be lame it if was a male. I like that she has a white Macbook because I’m always suspicious of people who have the more powerful RAM-type black Macbook. Is Apple trying to invert racism by making the black one better? I bet those post-its and pieces of paper on the wall are supposed to be notes, like “chapter. 4, Emile dies,” or “no similes!”
II. I also like that the agent is colored (damn, I don’t think “colored” is the right word — though I’m thinking more of “coloring book” since it’s a cartoon). He seems either Indian or Filipino or Mexican. (Is it funny how you’re either black, white, or brown — and how brown is ‘every other race’?) I don’t like how the binder-clip is in the middle of the manuscript, seems unrealistic.
III. I like how the editor-in-chief is a white bald guy. With the female writer, colored agent, I think Tomine was like “I need to lay off the social progressiveness here,” and just put a white guy in the big chair. Where the hell did the binder-clip go? Chris Ware would never miss such details.
IV. I don’t know much about printing. Do they really use conveyor belts like they’re making donuts or something? Maybe the conveyor belt is the universal “mass production” motif.
V. At the new releases table, they always prop a book up on top of the stack of the same book. Whose responsibility is it to re-prop the book when someone buys the displayed one? The customer? The customer representative? When you’re at the magazine rack and a bunch of subscription cards fall out, are you supposed to feel bad? Bookstores are a confusing place.
VI. I like how the guy reading the book seems Asian, and that he’s “multi-tasking” (reading + drinking from straw). Sorry that I keep talking about race/ethnicity, it’s just that Tomine has assigned a rather global cast of people. The guy’s bag suggests that he is on an “urban excursion,” like he also went to get some CDs and maybe see the optometrist for contact lenses to tone down his Asianness.
VII. I like how Tomine handles the seasons, like now it’s September or October. I think the Asian guy is single. Girls are attracted to either stock-brokers or drummers from bands. Girls will tell you otherwise, but in the end, it’s all about money or sticks. If you’re an Asian guy who just likes to read in the park, chances are your salary is under 100K and you have no rhythm. I’m sure this guy is single.
VIII. Funny how the bum-type guy is white. Again — I don’t wanna make this a racial thing, but it’s very noticeable. I wonder what’s in those plastic bags. I’m starting to think he’s Korean and the bag is full of Kimchi gone bad. (For those who don’t know, Kimchi is technically “cabbage gone bad” so for Kimchi to go bad is intense shit.)
IX. I see a discrepancy: we go from fall to winter and the bum-type guy is wearing the same outfit. Does this mean he’s a) a bum and these are his only clothes, or b) he’s just a bum-type guy and this is a huge coincidence? Obviously, I don’t have the answer.
I guess maybe this illustration is somewhat cynical — I mean, the book is eventually burned. Though I see frames I., III., and VI. as very hopeful moments: the creation of art, the potential profit, and the search for something meaningful (respectively). I often struggle with what’s more important to me, I. or VI. It’s funny how ego both makes and kills art. I really like Adrian Tomine because he makes me think, and his rendering of the world is nicely composed.