150: Students on the Move, Part I

“The last handful of years have seen an explosion in student organizing, here in the States, but also across the world, with hot spots in the UK, Austria, Sudan, and a slew of other countries. But here in the U.S. most people associate ‘student revolt’ with the 1960s, and that is in large part due to the media representing and re-representing 60s and 70s student movements. One small part of that media apparatus is the publishing industry. During this pre-internet time, books played a much larger role in many people’s lives, and what were called ‘Mass Market’ paperbacks (smaller, pocket-sized books, usually around 4″ wide and 7″ tall) were regularly sold in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of copies, and were available not just in book stores, but drug stores, five and dimes, newsstands, and supermarkets. Partly these books were competing with other print media like tabloids, newspapers, and magazines, there was a need to make them seem sexy, and create exciting and often somewhat exploitational covers. This was most obvious in the realm of sex, with racy, titilating covers for novels with sexual content, but spread out into politics when publishers were trying to figure out how to sell books about race, gender, and sexuality. This in turn spread across other political realms, including the broader Left, and student movements, generating a small genre of covers I call student-sploitation books. Roger Rapoport and Laurence J. Kirshbaum’s exposé Is the Library Burning? is a classic of this genre, with it’s inflammatory title and red and black duotoned cover image of a gas-masked soldier staked out in front of an ivory-covered university building. Not exactly subtle. Two of the most circulated books that their respective publishers tried to capitalize on were the ‘tell-all’ manifestos The Strawberry Statement: Notes of a College Revolutionary by James Simon Kunen and The Student as Nigger by Jerry Farber. The Strawberry Statement is surprisingly restrained, with a type-only design, the only visual reference to the discord of the time is the type slowing intensifying from flame red at the bottom to white hot at the top. The cover of Farber’s book is much more exploitational. The title, of course, carries serious weight and implications, but the visual also is constructed to communicate a set of powerful ideas. …”

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Books and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s