Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Wait, what?

As someone who is always on the look-out for classics that I've somehow missed, I was intrigued tocome across a publisher called Bibliolis Books, who are putting out lesser-known works by great (or at least important) writers, like so:

And with some of the better-known books in their catalogue, nothing seems amiss:

But looking deeper through their list, I'm a bit alarmed by the covers given some other better-known books.

Mistah Kurtz--he on a road trip

The book that fits this cover would be significantly less odd than the one Stoker wrote

Eppie was a surprisingly modern girl

Gulliver joins Kurtz

This makes the book's social comedy look more like some Kafkaesque nightmare

Despite the cover, this book contains no pretentious nightclubbers who refuse to act their age

Sit, Earnest, sit--good dog.

Again, you see what they meant, but it's all wrong

Is this a case of Tutis-like randomness? That seems unlikely--there's more care given to the titles printed than Tutis ever showed. But what the hell is going on with these covers? Bibliolis's own website is no help, being virtually information-free. What is going on here?


Brian Busby said...

I like the overall design, and find several of the covers hauntingly effective. But what of the others? Why the focus on autos and asphalt? Just look what they've done to Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens' No Thoroughfare.

I see what Bibliolis is trying to do - in part because I read this press release. A quick skim will end the head-scratching.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In the meantime, I'll be keeping an eye out in the hope that they'll be adding some Canadian titles to their list. A Bibliolis Anne of Green Gables should be interesting.

amateur idler said...

Ick! You know, I am probably a member of this "new generation of readers" they're trying to appeal to, and I'm sorry to say that it's not going to work. And what they're trying to do seems like a bit of a waste of time. The people who want to read books about nightclubbers who don't act their age aren't going to be fooled, and the people who want to read classics don't want to go around holding things that look like books about nightclubbers. If I'm going to the trouble of reading a classic I want to look smart, for pete's sake.

tom said...

I don't think that press release quite cuts it in terms of head-scratching. The Importance of Being Earnest and Lair of the White Worm still inexplicable, and Gulliver's seriously pushing it.

There seem to me to be a number of possible explanations, perhaps a mixture of several. There's clearly an aesthetic they're going for (as they say in the press release), so that will dictate the look of the photos (glossy crypto-sophistication not really concealing tones high-falutin cars and women ladmag pr0n tho):

1. People who design cover haven't read book. In fact no one who signs off the cover has read the book or they're generally ok with it.

2. Aesthetic dictates type of photo. And either the library of available licensed photos is either so limited it's impossible to find something that fits both aesthetic and content, or where the person choosing the cover hasn't read the book, they'll whack in a key word search and pick whatever turns up. Especially if it's got a woman or a car in it. Or a dog. Still don't get the dog.

3. Where they have read the book, and they've got a photo, you get more or less sensible ones.

So, no, not quite Tutis randomness, but keyword randomness dictated by a cover aesthetic, with content secondary, which gives away cheapo operation working off mining the equation Big Name+cheaply available imprints=well, not mega bucks, but some bucks. Not necessarily a bad thing! I definitely want to read some of these, but NYRB Classics this ain't.

BeauW said...

They do have a rather impressive list of Canadian authors. They do great original and reprint editions of proven talent who the 'best-seller-or-nothing' industry has dropped. I've picked up a few of my old favorites in new editions from them - like Terry Griggs, Robin Sarah and Ray Smith.

Brian Busby said...

Beau, I think you're thinking of Biblioasis. I almost made the same mistake myself. Bibliolis, Biblioasis... so similar in name, though I'm sure the former did not intend to confuse.

I'll join in your praise of Biblioasis. 'Tis my favourite Canadian publisher.

(Full disclosure: I have a column in their Canadian Notes & Queries magazine.)