Tuesday 29 April 2008

James Hanley's 'Boy'

Yesterday's post about the Obelisk Press showed their groovy but inapt cover for James Hanley's Boy. Here are a few of the other cover treatments this book has undergone.

Before continuing, I ought to say two things. First of all, this is one of the saddest, most depressing books I've read (and it's also great). Secondly, the discussion of the final cover below gives away the ending of the book, so stop reading now if that will bother you.

Here's the original cover from the 1931 Boriswood edition: this is the one that brought down the censor on Hanley's head.

The scandal and renown the book gathered drew the attention of Jack Kahane, who printed it in Paris as an Obelisk book (as shown at bottom here in an image from this).

The book was finally published in an unexpurgated form in the UK by Andre Deutsch, in 1990. As the story is that of a boy who stows away on a ship, and effectively becomes a slave on that ship, they chose an appropriate, if uninspired, image of roiling waves. Unfortunately the font chosen for the title makes it look more like a showbiz story.

Finally, there's the handsome new Oneworld Classics edition. Here's where I give the plot away: the victim-hero of the book ends up being murdered and thrown overboard. This image obviously fits that, but also nicely combines Boy's mixture of grimness and beauty. That the boy in the photo has a ribcage that looks fragile enough to break under the slightest pressure adds to the sadness.


JonathanM said...

The Andre Deutsch edition takes me back; as their central London rep, I was the foot soldier on that one.

Steerforth said...

I loved 'Boy' (my copy was a Penguin 20th Century Classics edition) but what a depressing novel!

JRSM said...

I didn't know you'd been at Andre Deutsch, Jonathan--from Diana Athill's memoirs, they sound like entertaining and infuriating people to have worked for.

I spent ages looking for an image of the Penguin edition--it seems to be incredibly rare, and no cover could I turn up. I've got the Oneworld edition, which is a very nice piece of work, but this site does demonstrate my obsession with Penguin Classics.