Friday, 29 January 2010

The 3,988,393,210,272nd Salinger Blog Post

The death of J. D. Salinger has generated a vast quantity of online verbiage, so my apologies if you don't want any more. I'm actually not a big Salinger fan, having only read A Catcher in the Rye, and that probably too late in life to really love it. But a sharp-eyed reader emailed me with this link to the 'Guardian', and their online display of some inadvertently timely Salinger redesigns, which are being brought forward because of the death.

To quote from the article: "Before his death, JD Salinger's publisher, Hamish Hamilton, worked with him to produce jackets for reissues of his books (originally planned for June, they are now due out next month) ... [said]Simon Prosser, publishing director, Hamish Hamilton: "There are strict rules about JD Salinger's covers. The only copy allowed on the books, back or front, is the author name and the title. Nothing else at all: no quotes, no cover blurb, no biography. [...] We commissioned Seb Lester, the highly regarded type designer, to hand-draw a font; that font, on the cover of these re-issues, is a one-off and is known in-house here at Hamish Hamilton as the 'Salinger'."

Here are the covers:


So, I think I'll be reading some more Salinger, then.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Zandra Rhodes's 1970s Penguins

A couple of weeks ago I posted the covers by Sir Peter Blake for the 1950s entries in the upcoming Penguin Decades series. Now its time to jump two decades on, to the covers that punk-influenced (and influencing) textile designer Zandra Rhodes has created for the 1970s books.


I particularly like the Susan Hill cover, while the Daphne du Maurier doesn't seem unsettling enough. I'm not sure what embossing/debossing/varnishing treatments will be used on these (if any), as that could add greatly to the tactile, textile-aping effect. We'll see closer to the time. And again, there's one cover missing--William Trevor's young-psycho-on-the-prowl novel The Children of Dynmouth.

UPDATE: Here's the previously missing Trevor cover:

Two decades are still to come: the 1960s, with covers designed by the great Alan Aldridge, and the 1980s, with covers designed by John Squire (once of potential-squandering band The Stone Roses). I'm excited by the prospect of the former, and worried by the prospect of the latter (unless Squire has moved on from his Jackson-Pollock-aping-but-with-fruit-nailed-on paintings).

Monday, 25 January 2010


Pleasingly, How to Make a Chinese or Japanese Book Cover has been re-posted over at Sociological Images, with lots of discussion in the comments section. If you're interested, pop over. If you're just here for the book covers, here are two which struck me this morning, one very good and one very bad. See if you can guess which is which.

(Design by Michael Kellner)

(Designer unknown)

Thursday, 21 January 2010

How to Make a Chinese or Japanese Book Cover (Epilogue)

In the comments to the last post, Matthew Adams draws attention to another side of Asian literature in the West: "I reckon every book that comes out of Asia should have a kung fu master, ninja or samurai on it. And the really good books would have all three on the cover." Even better would be one that had a ninja AND everything else from the previous post. So here we go: the ultimate Asian book cover...

How to Make a Chinese or Japanese Book Cover

If you're designing a cover for a book by a Chinese or Japanese writer, or with a Chinese or Japanese setting, it seems that there are some compulsory elements which must be included. For variety's sake, there are four elements, but you MUST use at least one of them. Advanced designers, of course, may use two or more.

Element 1: Blossoms (preferably cherry, but anything red or pink will do)


Element 2: Fans (preferably held so as to partly obscure a woman's face (or genitals), and if you can get blossoms on the fan, you get bonus points)



Element 3: Dragons (for use only on crime novels, or other exciting tales)


Element 4: Female Necks (preferably that of a geisha, but any female neck will do in a pinch)


You'll notice that only women are allowed on the cover of Chinese and Japanese literature. Ideally, they will be either expressionless (some might say demure or inscrutable), or at most vaguely melancholy.

For more on this trend, see this article from Hyphen Magazine, which features a brief interview with ace designer Henry Sene Yee. It was that article which also drew my attention to two covers featured above, those for On a Bed of Rice and The Street of a Thousand Blossoms.

(To be fair, I ought to note that several of these covers are actually very nice--it's just that they lose rather a lot of their impact because of the familiarity of the elements used.)

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Low-Energy Post

Another case of two books, one cover, this time using a photo by Mark Pennington.


Monday, 18 January 2010

Clockwork Copper

Not exactly a cover containing a cover, but instead a cover adapting another cover:

This is, of course, a variation on David Pelham's famous cover for A Clockwork Orange...

..which has been used elsewhere, too.

And if you want to make your own little paper toy Alex (and droogs), try this link.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Erotic, Valorous, Furious, Terror-Stricken, pathetic, Comic, Disgusting, Marvelous, Peaceful

One of the most striking covers I've ever seen:

It's The 9 Emotions of Indian Cinema Hoardings, another strange and wonderful book of Indian pop culture, published by Tamil Nadu-based Tara Books. I learned of this publisher, and their special handmade books scheme, through the excellent BibliOdyssey. Here's the back, with more information (click for bigger, readable version):

And here are a couple of interior spreads, to give you a taste (again, click for bigger versions):


Thursday, 14 January 2010

Arbitrary Rules for Book Covers: #1 in an irregular series

Most memoirs and autobiographies have tasteful, nicely lit professional and/or studio portraits of their authors on the covers, usually looking thoughtful or intelligent. The new rule is that all such books should instead have embarrassing but appropriate photos from the author's childhood, such as this for a man who grew up to become a book reviewer...

..or this cover for the childhood memories of a white girl whose white father was convinced he was black, and insisted that his daughter should behave like a character from Superfly.

The Unlikely Cash-In Department

The Unlikely Cash-In Department has been founded to showcase the most unlikely attempts to hoist classic literature onto the confused consumers of popular culture. It would include, of course, the Twilight-aping Wuthering Heights from this post. It would include this ludicrous tie-in edition from 2000...

..and to this collection we must now add this new edition of Dante's Inferno. "The timeless classic of a journey through the horrors of hell. The action adventure blockbuster that's rocking the video game world. All hell is breaking loose."

Yes. Yes it is.

(UPDATE: And now this idea is parodied here.)

* * *

That Inferno is from Random House US. Fortunately, they're not all bad--here's another book they're about to release, with a clever (and also monster-featuring) cover by a designer unknown to me.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


When I posted the cover for Manuel Rivas's Books Burn Badly, I didn't then know who the designer was. An anonymous person has since let me know that it is Michael Salu, who was also responsible for the most recent Vintage UK iteration of Patricia Highsmith. And having know been turned onto his work, I keep finding other great stuff the man has done.

The most recent update of Italo Calvino's backlist for Vintage Classics UK is a clever example of how text alone (and the odd simple shape) can make a cover work. They seem especially apt for a writer who had so much fun playing with language.




Salu also did something similar for Raymond Carver's backlist...


However, he's not just about the type. Here is a beautiful cover for an upcoming short story collection...

And here, stolen from Sula's website, are three apparently rejected covers for reissues of Ismail Kadare's backlist. I can imagine why anyone wouldn't have used these.



Michael Sula's web home is With Subtitle.Frankly, I could have kept reposting stuff from there all day, but you're best exploring it yourself before he sets his lawyers onto me.