[ Uthuppuru, Mary ] Lahiri, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies. New York: Houghton Mifflin. 1999.
Consisting of nine short stories, Interpreter of Maladies revolves around Indian and Indian American characters who must navigate through the cultural differences they face. This copy of the book was created by bookbinder and artist Mary Uthuppuru and won the Best in Category award at One Book, Many Interpretations: Second Edition sponsored by the Chicago Public Library in 2011.
The contest specified that a trade edition of Interpreter of Maladies be disbound and then rebound by the contest entrant. Jhumpa Lahiri’s book entails nine separate stories, and Uthuppuru innovatively chose to create a boxed set of nine slim volumes. Each story is separately bound by the artist in a Bradel style binding with handmade fuchsia paste cloth at the spine and handmade orange paste cloth on the boards. Each book’s cover features stamped contour lines in silver and gold. The covers are further embellished with partial decorative motifs stenciled in white and yellow paint.
The books can be displayed so that the collective design of their covers interprets the author’s theme of cultural dissonance and the tension experienced by those moving from the ancient culture of India to the contemporary commercial culture of the United States. When the books are laid out with the white stencil motifs matching, the stamped silver lines form the outline of the United States. When the books are rearranged with the yellow stencil motifs matching, the stamped gold lines form the outline of India. The back covers of the books feature a gold-stamped and painted design, while the spines are stenciled with dots to indicate the number of the volume.
These nine books are housed in a wrap-around chemise covered in fuchsia-colored Iris book cloth with a decorative shaped fore edge flap. A triangular wedge covered in handmade orange paste cloth is built into the chemise to support the books. The chemise also features a stencil decoration at the fore edge and is stamped in gold on the spine with the title and author’s name. A slipcase covered in purple-colored Iris book cloth with decorative cutouts at the sides and a stenciled motif at the fore edge protects the books.
This unique binding is signed by the artist inside the chemise.
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