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A Picture Tells a Thousand Words

Look at the lurid cover of this dismal-sounding book on my July calendar page: ‘The Pit’, of all cheerful titles, complete with a Grim Reaper and a woman staring into the maelstrom of a sink plug full of drowning people. I was disgusted that I had to look at this all month!

Upon research however, I discover that the book is the second in an incomplete trilogy portraying the production, distribution and consumption of an American crop of wheat; the dryness of the subject is juiced up with human drama. The ‘pit’ of the title refers to the wheat speculation trading pits at the Chicago Board of Trade Building. One reviewer says the book is vividly and finely written, and the author apparently ‘broke with the traditions of his time and brought a fresh perspective to the American novel’. [Goodreads]

After reading Wikipedia’s summary of the plot, the analogous illustration of the cover certainly makes sense – and I am even intrigued enough to be interested in reading the book – but my initial reaction to the cover when I turned the calendar page was repulsion at its unsubtlety. What did readers at the turn of the last century thing, I wonder?

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