Why Leslie Long comes to work singing …

PCAN welcomes contributions of many flavors and formats, and here’s a first: an audio ode by Leslie Long to the beautiful if damaged books that arrive on our cold, powder-coated shelves for treatment. Listen! Enjoy the text and the simple reminder that we should come to work singing!

Why Leslie Long comes to work singing (.mp3)

It has often been said that we must not judge a book by its cover.

No doubt this is sometimes true. Beautiful words might be contained within humble covers: dark blue paper, dulled and scarred over decades, bullet-proof burgundy buckram. And inside? War and Peace! Winnie the Pooh!

But let’s consider those book covers designed by artists like Margaret Armstrong, Sarah Wyman Whitman, Maxfield Parrish and Will Bradley. The content between their covers might be magnificent, but if not, who cares? The book is beautiful. It’s a work of art. It’s a lovely thing.

During the years between 1890 and 1913, the period of the great artist designers, fueled by the spirit of the Arts and Crafts Movement to restore beauty and grace in everyday objects, even the most uninspired writing (Myrtle Reed’s novel Flower of the Dusk or Paul Leichester Ford’s Wanted! A Chaperon, could have an awe inspiring cover.

So what, if the content is not “intellectual.” So what, if it’s merely a “cream puff of perishable fiction.” It has a lovely face. It’s dressed well. It has glistening gold letters and soft pink butterflies and bright yellow flowers and bold green ferns on its cover.

When these beautiful books come to us torn and broken, our hearts leap up. Ah, a cover worth keeping, a stand-alone object of delight, a bright beacon in a dark flood of ugly buckram and rotting leather. If the insides are good, too, that’s whipped cream and a cherry!

We’re lucky! We celebrate the exuberance of the artist designers who worked at making book covers fascinating, before the invasion of the dust jacket that accompanied the beginning of WWI. We’re lucky! We know the beauty of books. We patiently practice skills in that important creative tradition.

Even if we think we can’t write something great (though maybe we can!), even if we think we can’t make our own great covers (but I’ll bet we can!). We know we can preserve the great books that surround and nourish our spirits.

Every day we should come to work singing, inspired by the beauty around us, sometimes within the covers; sometimes on them.

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