And so I discover my designer

Do you remember our little debate seven months ago (that long!), about the design on my book’s jacket cover?

As usual, you didn’t hold back. (And may that never change!) Thus dafna, for example:

… it has the right parts, but they are not in the right place nor in the right proportions for the reasons listed. a few tweaks and you might have had a more memorable cover…

And then, in a follow-up comment:

as a first time author, you were probably assigned to a designer, perhaps “junior designer” who was over-worked and under paid.

Well, as a connoisseur of irony, I can’t help but delight in the one I’ve just discovered. The first hardcover copies of Hannibal and Me are out now, and my agent and I were holding them in our hands for our first look at the real thing (a feeling you e-bookers will never know. :( )

And there, on the back flap, we saw it:

Jacket design by Devin Washburn/Rodrigo Corral design

Wow, said my agent, Rodrigo Corral is huge.

I wouldn’t know anything about this, but in the world of book design, that agency might be the Apple, or the Ferrari, or the Le Corbusier, or whatever might be the appropriate analogy. And I actually do see a certain visual DNA inheritance in my cover, compared to some of the others you see here, wouldn’t you say?

So Riverhead actually had shelled out for the best. I wonder how that might have influenced my own reaction, and yours, if we had known. Do weigh in.

The only puzzle remains: why did Riverhead not simply tell us?

Brancusi, Einstein, simplicity and beauty

If non-conformity and “impudence” are the first ingredients in the astonishing creativity of a man such as Einstein, as I said here, are there yet other ingredients? Of course. And the most important, in my opinion, is an appreciation of simplicity.

More than most people I know, I yearn for simplicity in my life–on my desk, in my file folders, in my home decoration, in my writing, my sentences and of course my thoughts. Quite probably, that is because there is far too much complexity in all of these.

When I approach a new topic, as I did a years ago when I, who was a technophobe, took over the tech beat at The Economist, I first run it through my complexity/simplicity filter. At that time I came up with this.

If I had to choose a favorite sculptor, it might be Brancusi, who grasped simplicity as well as anybody. It is at heart an uncluttering. In Brancusi’s case, he strips a thing of all unnecessary detail in order to reveal its underlying form.

Simplicity is thus also a form of honesty. Once the underlying form of a thing is revealed, you know whether it has beauty or, in the case of writing, also substance. Some of you may recall my idiosyncratic way of reading, by copying and pasting a long document into my word processor, then deleting all extraneous detail as I go along. In effect, I force simplicity onto, say, a research paper. Often, this is how I realize that the boffin in question was a windbag and had nothing to say, hiding behind verbose complexity. Other times, I realize I have hit a treasure trove.

Back to Einstein. Isaac Newton in his Principia had already said that

Nature is pleased with simplicity.

Einstein extended his hunch, saying that

Nature is the realization of the simplest conceivable mathematical ideas.


I have been guided not be the pressure from behind of experimental facts, but by the attraction in front from mathematical simplicity.

What goes for sculptors, inventors, physicists and other forms of homo sapiens goes especially for writers.