Simon Kurt Unsworth, author of The Devil’s Detective, speaks at the Lancashire Writing Hub and answers a question from the audience. It’s a question we’ve been asking ourselves for years. His answer may surprise you!
“I think you damn well should judge books by their covers,” says Simon Kurt Unsworth.
“I’ll tell you why in this short ramble. I think the first thing I need to do is to differentiate something. When we say ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover,’ we often mean don’t judge people by how we see them, the first things that we see about them. I don’t suppose there’s anyone in this room who would disagree that we should not judge people by things like the color of their skin, whether they’re male or female, their age, how they kind of look to us.
But I don’t really think that’s what this phrase actually means. Because if you think about what a cover actually does for a book: it allows us to make a different set of judgements. Covers – dustcovers on hardbacks – are about protecting books, about presenting an image of the book so that you can make a decision about whether you wish to investigate that book further.
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In that way, the closest analogy to people is probably people’s clothes. People’s clothes say quite a lot. Simon’s clothes ordinarily say that I have very bad taste in shirts!
But we can make judgments about people as a result of their clothes. The judgement is about whether we think we would want to connect with that person more than we already are. I’ll give you a couple of examples.
You see someone dressed entirely in black – tight black jeans, a Sisters of Mercy t-shirt, long dyed hair, they’re pasty-looking, and their mouth is pierced, and they normally wear large Frankenstein-looking boots. The likelihood is that they are a Goth. It’s only a likelihood – it’s not a guarantee, but it’s probable.
And you can make a judgement at that point of ‘I don’t really like people who listen to Goth music. I can’t stand the Sisters of Mercy, they need to read, have a cup of tea, and smile a bit more.’ You’re probably not going to want to talk to that person. Or you can decide that you really like Sisters and you like people dressed in black and you can form a misery circle together.”
Congrats to Bruce L., Sam N., April E., Susan B., Bonnie K., and 45 other members of the Read It Forward community! Their entries were selected at random to win an Advance Reader’s Copy of The Devil’s Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth.
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