Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Irresistible Revolution: Step by Step I

Let's first examine the cover of my paperback copy--actually the library's--of Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution: Living as an ordinary radical. About 80 percent of the cover looks like a brown paper lunchbag with two pieces of duct tape on the left side wrapping around the spine. On the 20 percent of the cover remaining, we see a black and white photograph of almost half of Shane Claiborne's face. We glimpse his kerchief covering all but a few strands of his hair, one lens of his glasses, his wispy goatee and almost half of his Mona Lisa smile.

On the front and back inside covers are montages of black and white photos of Shane and his friends. We see Shane and his cohorts in front of a mural painted on a brick wall, Shane hanging out with his friends in a living room, two children at a table, and a woman doing something I can't figure out in a room where Bible verses seem to be painted on the walls. On the back inside cover, Shane sits around a table eating with friends, tends a city garden and sits on a stoop barefoot and in shorts.

Inside, the brown paper bag motif continues. The first page of each chapter is 80 percent covered by an image of a paper bag, with only the ragged right edge of the words showing. Then the page is reprinted without the bag on top. I suppose the idea is that what Shane is saying is so subversive you have to hide it in a brown paper bag. Cute.

Chapter titles and subtitles are sort of raggy and faded out, as if done on some sort of homemade press. Again cute.

I have to say that these sorts of clever presentations are a pet peeve of mine. I'd rather have the book unadorned, without all the visual reminders of how cool I am to be reading it. How do you feel about this issue? However, I did find the photos straightforward and helpful.

Now that we've entered cool world, what does Shane have to say? That's for tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I understand your frustration.

From a design point of view, it seems trite and cutesy. I have to think this was done by the publisher, and any attempt by the book or its presentation to frame Shane as a rock star is unintentional on his part.

It also seems a gloss on "real" counter cultural texts -- Abbie Hoffman's "Steal This Book," for example, or Guy Debord's "Society of the Spectacle," which says, on its copyright page, "No copyright."

Those books sought to undermine the commodification of language. Which brings up an interesting concern: Why was this book published commercially? Is it simple to charge for access to your ideas?

Anonymous said...


Shane gave away everything he made from this book (and continues to make) to a Jubilee redistribution fund...just a different way to look at subverting capitalism and the pursuit of money. Can we use the vehicle of large corporations being able to print our thoughts on a large scale to give them a bigger stage without being co-opted? I certainly think so.

Nate Myers