Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Perfect Title?

As an addendum to the look at Pulp, a question must be asked. Does this book not have the perfect pulp title? Perhaps even the perfect anything title?

Image nicked from here, which is well worth visiting.


A book I've had for a while but dug out for another look recently is Pulp: A collector's book of Australian pulp fiction covers, put out by the National Library of Australia in Canberra. It's by Toni Johnson-Woods.

It's a fun little collection, though neither in-depth enough to do more than scrape the surface, nor big enough to give more than a small selection of funky old pulp cover images.

Another missed opportunity is the cover. While it's nice enough, and fits the theme--menacing silhoutted figure in trenchcoat lurks behind femme fatale clutching book in library--it's too obviously a pastiche of the covers within, without looking convincingly like them.

Here are some of the internal spreads to give you an idea of the sorts of images I mean. Again, forgive the photographs, but this is another book I'm not crushing in my scanner.

And yes, that is Bettie Page at the bottom right there--it strikes me as odd that she should show up on the cover of an Australian crime novel, but there she be.

For an example of how an original pulp illustration might have been used on the cover of Pulp instead, here are two examples.

There's a good summary article about Australian pulps by Johnson-Woods here, and more here.


When I was a child, some of my favourite books were Tove Jansson's Moomin books. They tell the tale of the residents of Moominvalley, a gleefully, good-humouredly anarchic place somewhere in Scandinavia, inhabited by a vast array of peculiar but appealing creatures.

These books are a delight: there's no more appropriate word. So you can imagine my joy when Drawn & Quarterly, a Montreal-based comics publisher, last year began reprinting Jansson's Moomin comic strips. She drew these for five years in the 1950s for a British newspaper, and as far as I know they've not been collected in English before.

The second volume just came out, and I devoured it yesterday. They're beautifully produced over-sized books, with colourful cloth covers and thick, creamy pages.

As ever, click on an image for more detail.

These comics are just as wonderful as the novels and stories Jansson wrote (and while we're on the topic, seek out her for-adults work too: The Summer Book, A Winter Book and Fair Play have all been republished by Sort Of Books).

I've put up some individual panels here to give you the idea of the style and tone of the comics.

I apologise that the quality of reproduction is not quite as good as it could be: these come from photographs of the pages, as there was no way I was going to risk mauling these books' spines in my scanner.

Here's Moominmama explaining her family's domestic cleaning habits to the next-door neighbour...

And here's Moomintroll himself, having been driven into a short-lived rage when his girlfriend, the Snork Maiden, is drawn to another man (who is also a sports-obsessed lunatic)...

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Dangers of Stock Photography Continued

Here are some more examples of stock photography being overused.
First this...

..which features a recent UK edition of a very good book (the Neruda) and a recent US edition of a very bad book. Also note the mimsy American avoidance of nipple display on the second cover.

Then there's this, which is a bit different. It's the same chap in almost the same pose on both covers--presumably they're from the same photography session--but in the first he's a laconic Swedish policeman (from the brilliant Martin Beck series) and in the other he's a Turkish journalist.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

1250 Covers Arranged in a Spectrum

Just because I can, really (using AndreaMosaic).

Click to enlarge, though not as much as I'd like. I already had to shrink this down so that Blogger wouldn't have a breakdown.

Why They're Musicians, Not Visual Artists

The My Penguin series of blank-covered classics, for which you can design your own cover, are a fun idea (see here for details). Penguin themselves decided to promote the series by having a bunch of bands/musicians design covers for some of these seminal books. Sadly, they picked a bunch of (mostly) third-stringers, and some of them are even less inspired at visual design than they are at music.

Look at these, for example. The first is Razorlight's cover for The Great Gatsby, while the second is Ryan Adams' cover for Dracula.

Razorlight's singer says: "I was running a book on the grand national in Tokyo and I was writing out a betting slip for everyone, and decided that my bookie's name was going to be Gatsby. The cover of this book is a betting slip." Oh, good. So you didn't just throw together a piece of crap in 30 seconds, then. And Adams has produced a something that looks as though it was made by a 3-year-old out of poo.

As an example of how this might be done right, see Beck's contribution.

For another good example of My Penguin cover art, see the great Eddie Campbell's take on Aurelius' Meditations and Austen's Emma.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Fashionable Contrasts

Here we have another case of the one image popping up on recent multiple covers (see this post for background). The image is the cartoon 'Fashionable Contrasts' by the great James Gillray (1757-1815).

And here it is again (and again, and again)...

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Gentlemen of the Road

Michael Chabon is one of my favourite writers (and if you haven't seen the wonderful movie version of his Wonder Boys, you must). He also recently has been on a bit of a mission to revitalise genre fiction (mystery, science-fiction, even pulp adventure).

His newest book, originally published as a newspaper serial, was provisionally entitled Jews with Swords. It's the story of two amoral yet good-hearted Jewish thieves and adventurers in the Caucasus around 950AD.

Chabon's books usually have wonderful covers on the American versions (usually by the great Chip Kidd), and dull, unimaginative covers on the Commonwealth editions. This time, though, for once it's the British edition that has the good cover.

It's just right, like an Edwardian adventures storybooks for children. I'd have peeled that annoying white sticker off, too, if bitter experience didn't tell me that it would tear off some of the cover with it. A shame, because it's the only thing that spoils the illusion.

This edition also comes with a tipped-in bookplate, possibly signed by Chabon himself. At least, it's his signature, but I'm buggered if I can work out whether it's been hand-signed or simply printed onto the bookplate. I'd love to know which it is.