Friday, February 20, 2009

Paperback 201: Cotton Comes to Harlem / Chester Himes (Dell 1513)

Paperback 201: Dell 1513 (1st thus, 1970)

Title: Cotton Comes to Harlem
Author: Chester Himes
Cover artist: Robert McGinnis

Yours for: $30

Best things about this cover:

  • This is the kind of cover I want to hang on my wall as a poster - vivid, unusual, stunning
  • Love love love the 3D perspective on the preacher's hand, the Rolls grille, and the 45 magnum. Lots of great tiny details too, like the little silhouetted man about to run down the subway stairwell, or the cop caught naked with a paper bag over his head.
  • In general, this style of cover art - many images crammed into a kind of composite bloc - is not my favorite. Always looks to me like it needs unpacking. You see the style a lot in late 60s / early 70s books. Here, I find the composition pleasing. Could be a little less busy, but the gun / 'fro / hand / Rolls give the picture distinct focal points and keep it from seeming like a morass of undifferentiated gunk.

Best things about this back cover:

  • I really should rent this movie. Redd Foxx!? I did not know that Ossie Davis co-wrote and directed it.
  • This movie is from the height of the Blaxploitation era.
  • The novel has comical elements, but is also dead serious. Cotton, as in a bale of cotton (not some guy named Cotton) literally comes to Harlem. It's a long story. Needless to say, all kinds of themes of racial difference and oppression get played out in the book. It's really fantastic.

Page 123~

He didn't see anything unusual about the Chevrolet pulling out from the curb near Eighth Avenue; it looked just like any other hundreds of Chevrolets in Harlem - a poor man's Cadillac.



Alix said...

"The swinging and the square"? AWESOME.

Anonymous said...

The book is awesome, and the film is also awesome. Very faithful adaptation in spirit and in most details. It's actually from the *start* of the Blaxploitation era, which allows it to be different (and better) than the more standardized films of a few years later.

I've got a stack of other Himes novels I really must read some day...

Anonymous said...