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May 18, 2006 Edition

Dear Max,

Maybe you can cheer me up? Can you give me some direction on where to take my art? How can I get started doing book covers?

Frustrated in Philly

Dear Frustrated,

You know how they say, you can’t judge a book by its cover? Well, that doesn’t mean you can’t judge a *book cover*, so you may be onto something here. I wish you’d been around when they designed the cover of my mom’s new book, Stupid and Contagious, available now through amazon.com (click here), bn.com, and fine booksellers everywhere (better a shameless plug than a shameless pug). Why? Look carefully: the Max Man is nowhere to be found! If you got an Ace in your hand, you gotta play it, baby!

But the book cover is definitely an underappreciated art form, much like the cereal box (mind control for the under-10-years-old set). After seeing the artwork for the cover Scribner’s had commissioned from Francis Cugat for The Great Gatsby, the story goes, Fitzgerald wrote to Maxwell Perkins that he was working the imagery into the book. A similar thing happened to Melville with Moby Dick. He wrote to his editor: “A whale, huh? I’m going to need another few months for the next rewrite.” So let’s cheer you up. First, follow your dream – unless it’s going to the Middle East. (They say Michael Jackson is there now!) Second, if you haven’t done this already, take maybe 10 popular books – some classic, some contemporary, some with great titles like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and The Idiot’s Guide to Sex — and create your interpretation. Finally, send them to art directors and editors at a bunch of publishing houses. If that doesn’t work, do it again. Sounds too easy or obvious? Well, I have a saying: you know what they call a writer who doesn’t keep writing or a designer who doesn’t keep designing, even after initial rejection? Answer: they don’t.

Dear Max:

My owner takes me to work everyday but he does not take me to restaurants, the bank or the grocery store. How can I get him to take me everywhere he goes?

Monty the Frenchie

Dear Unfulfilled Monty:

Tell me about it. Every time she leaves, I put on the cute “Where are you going/Can I come along?” face, and SLAM. She’s out the door. On the work thing, you’re *way* ahead of most of us. I lost that privilege permanently after a totally innocuous incident in a staff meeting years ago. (The guy was droning *on and on* — I just did what everyone was thinking when I peed on the floor.) I don’t know what your owner’s soft spots are, but if you want to tag along on the rest of his excursions, be aware of this: most of what humans do is REALLY BORING. Have you ever seen the looks on the faces of those dogs in purses that hang off the arms of supposedly loving owners? They’re not cold or afraid of tumbling out on their heads. That’s *sheer horror*. “Get me the hell OUT OF HERE! I was curled up on a cushion and got dragged along for this?!” The hardware store, Walgreens, Costco, Wal-Mart, K-mart, Target, and then – wait, wasn’t that box of Tide 38 cents cheaper at Costco? Judas Priest. Let me clue you in on the bank: all they have there is money, and a thing called a “loan,” which means you have to give it back. What dog ever heard of such a thing? Based on your name, I’m guessing you’re a French Bulldog, meaning he can’t take you to church or temple or a golf or chess match – you breathe too loud. But if you *want* to go to church, temple, or golf or chess, call me and we’ll check out a movie or something. You do mention two places it’s *theoretically* nice to go: restaurants and the grocery store (let’s not forget mecca – the Pet Store). But the reality never matches the promise: I spend the whole time getting jerked by the leash, just as my nose is nearing its goal. In short, you can plead and beg to go along wherever he goes, but like so much in life, it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. Especially if his destination is the dry cleaners.

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