July 28, 2011

Making the cover: How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive


Among the pleasures of designing the wide variety of books we publish at Melville House, perhaps the best is getting to immerse myself in so many different cultures. Whether it’s young lovers in Tokyo or the highest reaches of the Russian government, with every title I feel I’m learning about something new. Still, it was a surprise to discover, as I prepared to work on How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, that I was about to confront the most exotic culture yet: car culture.

First, a confession: as a city dweller and avowed non-driver, I’m more likely to be found behind the handlebars of my bike than a steering wheel, and the closest I’ve ever come to attempting car repair is nervously pointing out the “Check Engine” light on a friend’s dashboard. Fortunately for me, Christopher Boucher’s inventive novel is as concerned with mending a broken heart as it is a broken engine—or are they the same thing? It’s in this wild conflation, where everything is itself and something else at the same time, that an idea for the cover was born.

To complete the illustration, I researched old car manuals and exploded diagrams, looking for parts that would fit together around our Volkswagen’s engine heart and redrawing everything according to the same isometric perspective. The legend to the diagram, along the right, is a list of body parts pulled from an old anatomy textbook. The end result is a car that might not run in the real world, but it’s sure got a story to tell.

How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive is available for pre-order on our site now, or it’ll be in a store near you August 9. Also near you starting August 9: Christopher Boucher himself, as he embarks on a cross-country tour in his 1972 Volkswagen Beetle. To see when he’ll pass through your neck of the woods (or to suggest an extra stop), check out the complete tour schedule here.

Christopher King is the former Art Director of Melville House.