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Revisiting Robert Hayden
We all know the wise adage "Don't judge a book by its cover," but sometimes that is exactly what we do, and good for us as readers, I say. Books are never merely accumulations of content; they are also designs and forms. They invite our personal experiences with them, and their appearances (in both senses) constitute cultural occasions. Sure, there is usually a commercial strategy behind new printings of titles, and some have no need whatsoever of an updated edition, or fresh cover, or new introduction by this or that luminary. We may reasonably feel some cynicism at these unnecessary, perhaps unearned, reprintings. Yet I often find that an old book comes into fresh focus when its publisher rolls out the promotional red carpet. I admit to being too easily hooked, like a little boy with a bauble, by a redesign of a book with which I am long familiar, and likely even have in my possession already. Visuals aside, I am also a fan of that slightest of subgenres, the literary introduction, and so am glad to find some novelist briefly introducing a venerable or modern classic, or a reflective author presenting a new preface for a second edition. Sometimes, too, there is just experiential curiosity— what will it mean to read this book in that particular edition? What peculiar pleasures of reading will be afforded? Will you take up a book well known to you but now prime for rereading, or one that you should have read or have been meaning to read for too long? Now may be your chance, now that the timely occasion of a new, attractive edition is at hand.
Is it me, or has the past year in the publishing world felt like a particularly rich, varied time for reprintings? Authors such as Muriel Spark, C. P. Snow, and C. S. Lewis have enjoyed multiple-book productions from New Directions and Cambridge University Press. (In Lewis's case, the Canto Classics series has reissued critical works such as Allegory of Love and Studies in Words.) Princeton University ...