I’m just curious. When you pick up a new book, do you read the foreword, or the preface, or any of that stuff in the front? Or do you cut directly to the good stuff?
I ask because I’ve been working on the “front matter” of Faces of Tradition: Weaving Elders of the Andes. It’s going to be a gorgeous, heartfelt book, with portrait photography of dozens of ancient weavers (about my age, actually) and the landscapes they occupy in the Cusco region.
Their stories are brief and somewhat repetitious, but they will pierce your heart. Orphaned at an early age. Widowed at an early age. Forced to work in the haciendas. Weaving to provide food for their children. Or on the other hand, weaving to express their feelings, weaving to solidify their place in the generations of their family and community. Weaving to honor the saints in the churches, weaving to dress properly for festivities. These stories, and the photographs that accompany them, are the heart of the book. It has been thrilling to pull it together, to work with the two authors, Nilda Callañaupa and Christine Franquemont, and the photographer, Joe Coca.
Doing all this other stuff—assigning an ISBN number, writing marketing copy, listing the table of contents, writing a foreword, editing prefaces, author biographies, and so on—seems anticlimatic and sort of tedious. I guess you have to have these elements to be polite and to position the book correctly in the marketplace. But do you, an avid reader of books, actually pay attention?
And while you’re at it: take a look at this tentative cover. Is the title type too small? Is the face too big? Would you pick it up off the shelf? Let me know. We go to press in three weeks.