Monday 7 April 2008


Joseph Heller is one of those writers whose first novel is so good and so effective at worming its way into people's minds that they never manage to top it. Certainly everything else he produced has seemed somewhat disappointing in comparison. It's also a book with an interesting set of covers. The one to the left is the edition I have, a typical-for-its-time painted cover on a Corgi paperback. I'd like it more if it didn't look as though he was shouting, "Ste-lla!"

The original Simon & Schuster US edition looked like this...

..a look which has been retained for the current US paperback and commemorative hardbacks. It's quite unusual for old book covers to be revived like this, but it's nice when the original is a simple, effective bit of graphic design.

Here are a couple of other old paperback versions--the first is another Corgi edition, while I can't find the publisher of the second. They're not bad, either.

On the other hand, the UK/Commonwealth editions in recent years have been a bit so-so. They're perfectly adequate at communicating the fact that the books are about an air force in war-time, but don't really get across the fact that there's any humour or satirical intent.

Now, though, the UK version's getting another redesign. I don't know who's responsible for this version of the cover, but now you're talking.


John Self said...

Yes that is nicer - though I reserve the right to rant on ad nauseam about the frigging 'Vintage Heller' phrasing these new Vintage Classics have adopted. It's completely nonsensical, particularly for lesser known authors like 'Vintage O'Hara' (turns out to be John) or 'Vintage Warner' (Rex).

Anyway, now we need a new design for the UK edition of Heller's second, and much better than Catch-22, novel Something Happened. The current one looks like a tin of Miller.

JRSM said...

Lawks, yes, it does too. I haven't read that one, I must admit, having been disappointed by several other Hellers. Maybe when they re-cover it I'll get round to it.

You're right, the 'Vintage X' does seem a bit forced in some cases, especially given those lesser-known authors, like Rex Warner, don't actually get their first names on their own covers.

Anonymous said...

I tend to joke when I see Vintage Collins that I don't know if it's Wilkie or Jackie.