Thursday, 31 March 2011

A Moment in the Sun

I'm usually suspicious of massive new books--most writers who take 800 or 900 pages to tell a story usually do so in an incredibly undisciplined way, and if they weren't so self-indulgent (and had better editors) they could comfortably shave several hundred pages off and have a better book. After all, there aren't many writers who really have the talent to pull off a The Man Without Qualities or a Middlemarch.

However, one upcoming book has certainly got my interest: it's a 968-page novel by filmmaker John Sayles, who has previous form as a novelist. McSweeney's is putting it out (hopefully it's one of their excellent books, rather than one of their infuriating ones), and so has their traditional amazing production values. It looks like a massive, beautiful brick of a book. (Click the first image for a massive version, or the third for a less massive version not obscured by a sticker). The designer is as yet unknown.

The first four chapters were excerpted in an issue of the McSweeney's magazine, in a nice-looking chapbook format:

I always find excerpts like this a bit pointless (hence my dislike of Granta magazine, where half of the fiction always seems to be bits of upcoming novels, rather than stand-alone stories)--if the work is good, you want the whole book, and if it's not, you don't want to read any of it. I know that in this case it's a promotional tool more than anything else, but that doesn't stop me having a whinge.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

More Lawrence (and Waugh)

And speaking of sexy ladies on Lawrence covers, here's another one. It's one of the two Penguin Essentials covers I didn't have (out of the set of 20) when I first posted about them here. (Click for huge version.)

It's rather lovely, and is by Lucy McLauchlan

The other missing cover was for Brideshead Revisited, this time by Jim Tierney (see his work on Jules Verne for Vintage here). Again, click for a huge version.

As much as I like these, it does raise the question of how necessary they are. In Australia there are currently five different editions of Brideshead available and in print, all from Penguin, who also have four different editions of Lady Chatterley's Lover in print (five if you count the Graphic Classics edition from the US). Yet there other great writers, who were once part of the Penguin Classics list, who are now completely out of print in English, or at least in the Commonwealth: Sean O'Faolain, Witold Gombrowicz, Jiří Weil, most of Colette, V S Pritchett, Martin Boyd, etc etc etc etc. This seems somewhat mad.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Gauld on Lawrence Covers

I couldn't resist this wonderful Tom Gauld cartoon on book design.

Gauld, of course, knows what of he speaks: see my post on his book cover design here. As a taster, here's his Three Musketeers cover (click for bigger).

For D. H. Lawrence covers WITHOUT sexy ladies, see here, and WITH sexy ladies, see here, and WITHOUT a clue, see here.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


Spotted at the excellent John Gall's blog: Vintage US's new covers for James M. Cain's three most famous (and filmed) novels, created by Megan Wilson and Evan Gaffney.


UPDATE: The sideways layout may be a reference to the occasional practise in the past of giving horizontal covers to various pulp and crime books. See here and here for more examples.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Imminent Fancy Classics

Have a sneaky look at some of the Penguin Deluxe Classics coming from the US later this year.

First, Roald Dahl. Comics artist Ivan Brunetti tackles Willy Wonka...

..while Jordan Crane has a go at the Giant Peach. (I talked about Crane's work here and here, too.)

Then we have this unexpectedly upstanding-Edwardian-gentleman take on the denizens of H. P. Lovecraft's world, by Travis Louie.

And finally, three covers by Jillian Tamaki, illustrations turned into needle-and-thread pictures for three of what are being called 'Penguin Threads' (which are presumably this year's version of the Penguin Ink books).

Speaking of which, I never posted all of the final Penguin Ink covers, so here the ones I missed:

Cover by Lina Stigsson

Cover by Jen Munford

Cover by Grez

Cover by Daniel Albrigo

Cover by M. M. Gonzalo

Cover by Rob Admiraal

Cover by Robert Ryan

Insincerity Everywhere

Sharp-eyed reader CBlack spotted this duplicate cover image... which I can add this third version:

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Mabinogion Modernised

The Mabinogion is a medieval Welsh story cycle, drawn from a pair of manuscripts, its 11 tales mixing Arthurian myths, pre-Christian (perhaps even Iron Age) stories, folktales and other legends. Seren Books, a small Welsh publisher, has launched a series called 'New Stories from the Mabinogion', in which contemporary Welsh writers create new versions of these myths.

The four books in the series so far (I'm not sure if more are planned) all have lovely matching covers of cut paper, each featuring what I guess to be the meat-eating tree discovered by Gwydionin in the Blodeuwedd tale (modernised in a science-fiction version by Gwyneth Lewis). I'm very much a fan of the making and photographing of things like this, when it would be so easy to just create them in Illustrator or Photoshop.


I find that I actually already have two different versions of the Mabinogion in my library: the original English translation by Lady Charlotte Guest, illustrated by well-known fantasy artist Alan Lee, as well as a freeish series of novelisations by Evangeline Walton (with a cover also by Alan Lee).

Monday, 14 March 2011

Duplicate Covers, Good Deeds

A duplicate cover image...

..noted while looking at the worthy Authors for Japan site, which is auctioning off literary things to raise money for the victims of the terrible multiple disasters currently unfolding in Japan.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Peter Carey and the Paper Pubes

(Sorry about the title, but I couldn't resist.)

A couple of posts ago, I showed a couple of Australian designer Jenny Grigg's covers for Vintage Classics Australia. I first became aware of her work when she redesigned the Peter Carey backlist for his original Australian publisher, the University of Queensland Press, using lovely woodblocky letters and textures.

Unusually, when Carey jumped ship to Random House, the same designer was asked to redesign all of his works, which she did using what look like layers of folded and crumpled paper (hence the paper pubes on Illywhacker).

Carey's an unusual writer in that he seems to be held in much higher esteem overseas than he is here in Australia. Part of this is the standard (and sometimes unthinking and automatic) irritation Australians have with those who move overseas but keep pronouncing on Australia and its problems (see Germain Greer, Clive James, etc). But part of it must be that for every genuinely great book he writes (like Oscar and Lucinda or True History of the Kelly Gang) he produces a tedious dud (Theft, His Illegal Self, etc) that plays literary games that weren't worth the playing in the first place.

From one somewhat overrated author to another: Grigg has also produced a series of gorgeous covers for the Danish Linghardt og Ringhof editions of Ernest Hemingway's work. These, unusally, put the major graphic elements on the back covers, leaving the fronts bare of all but a little type.

Absolutely gorgeous.