Book Jacket of the Week #4: The Tragedy of Arthur

The latest book by Arthur Phillips, next on my reading list, and in his usual, ambitious style:

Most reading this blog are likely already aware of this book, and have maybe even bought it? For those who aren’t familiar, I encourage you to look no further than the book’s summary:

“Its doomed hero is Arthur Phillips, a young man struggling with a larger-than-life father, a con artist who works wonders of deception but is a most unreliable parent. Arthur is raised in an enchanted world of smoke and mirrors where the only unshifting truth is his father’s and his beloved twin sister’s deep and abiding love for the works of William Shakespeare—a love so pervasive that Arthur becomes a writer in a misguided bid for their approval and affection.”

Your intrigue now hooked, allow me just one personal story as I depart in my usual, lengthy way from the purpose of this series, which is solely about book art.  I once encountered Arthur Phillips himself, the kind of magic book groupies, like any groupie, hope for but rarely experience. It was during a time book tours were still achievable for authors, readings still well-attended; a time when people you met didn’t outwardly admit that they didn’t read books without any embarassment over that fact. The occasion was an author event series in Weschester — the longtime host of the series had an actress look and name, and later became an author in her own right: Delaune Michel. Now there was someone at the back of the van transporting us from train to event. Silent, stoic, and hooded, I couldn’t identify him except as someone who clearly was not a promoter or cheery publicist of any kind, but had not introduced himself as anything else.

I never guessed that this mysterious traveler was THE Arthur Phillips, the author of Prague, a book that had received all kinds of attention, and a book which, at that point, I had read and loved and remembered well. Imagine my surprise when this silent and mysterious type took the stage as the final reader, his identity revealed, and read from his latest book in a way that was theatrical and at the right times, hilarious. It was the sort of speaker one remembers long after the event, perfect for the grand finale.

I suppose, as you can’t judge a book by its cover, nor can you an Arthur. I only wish I had the footage to share from the event, but you can at least see Arthur take the stage in this video:[/veoh].


If you are an author, agent or editor who would like to submit a jacket for consideration in this series, please feel free to get in touch. Note to readers: I do not promote company clients as part of this series.

Cait Flanders


"Cait's audacious goal—a yearlong shopping ban—has sparked a deeply personal book full of lessons for all of us on finding more fulfillment and meaning in our lives (without all the stuff!). A game-changing read for anyone searching for simplicity in our consumer-focused world." — Rachel Jonat, author of The Joy of Doing Nothing