Thursday 3 September 2009

Penguin Ramblings

Soon I hope to be able to publish an interview with the executive designer at Penguin Australia. As a vaguely related prelude, here are some recent and upcoming bits of Penguin cover grooviness.

First of all, here are the two covers that were missing from this round-up of Richard Green's cover designs for some 2010 reprints of classic sensation novels.

Bulwer-Lytton's Paul Clifford, by the way, was the novel that famously began with 'It was a dark and stormy night...' (Well, it does so once you get past Bulwer-Lytton's two prefaces and a chunk of poetry quoted from Crabbe. Technically it starts with 'This novel so far differs from the other fictions by the same author that it seeks to draw its interest rather from practical than ideal sources...", but that wouldn't have been emulated by Snoopy and inspired an infamous competition for bad writing.)

Secondly, Penguin appear to be slowly revamping the look of their Nabokov back-list, presumably to capitalise on the first publication of the incomplete and much-discussed The Original of Laura.

The Enchanter was another posthumous unearthing, and something of a dry-run for Lolita.

I'm not sure which of these will be the final cover for Mary.

Finally, Penguin South Africa have started releasing the Penguin African Writers series, with Penguin UK to follow suit in early 2010.

These books are by writers from, respectively, Nigeria, Kenya, Côte d'Ivoire, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Guyana, so it's a good mix.

As Reneé Naudé explains, "Every book in the Penguin African Writers series is distinctly African and the illustrations should reflect a theme central to Africa. We are looking for creative representations of ‘African’, contemporary and/or traditional." These first covers certainly reflect that. The publishers have started a competition to design covers for further books in the series.

I also should point out that if you learn how to pronounce Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o properly, it's incredibly fun to say.


Anonymous said...

The cover for Neighbours is fantastic.

Ian Koviak said...

The first two covers you have featured are wonderful and fun to look at. Really great.

Nobokov covers are not doing it for me. something childish and wallpaper-like about it that seems too floaty for his work. Maybe I'm just tired of pattern-based covers...

All the last covers are nice, but a bit on the dark side. Little contrast. Kind of muddy...

All nice Penguins though. In general nice designs.

John Self said...

Yes like Ian, I'm unsure about the Nabokovs - the white oblong surrounded by pattern looks too much like old Penguin Poetry paperbacks, or 80s-era Faber poetry. At the same time, that does give them a more 'modern classic' feel (if a touch retro) than the current standard design for the Modern Classics.

Still, there are more examples now up on the Penguin website. Like this, and this, and this. That Pnin one is terrible, actually. I like the Despair one though.

JRSM said...

Old Faber poetry books! That's what these reminded me of. Thank you. You're right, 'Despair' does something interesting with the central rectangle.