I'm currently halfway through Rebecca Wolff's much-praised first novel (after several poetry collections), The Beginners. It's a book I'm enjoying, though it has a few flaws: describing a dream on pages 1 and 2 is a risky start (I'm with Henry James -- "Tell a dream, lose a reader."), and it needs better editing (one character's clothes change mid-scene for no reason--see pages 3 and 24), but it's also pretty absorbing, packing a heady charge of summer heat, adolescent female sexuality and the ghosts of witchcraft.
The cover design is gorgeous; it's the work of Helen Yentus and Ben Wiseman.
You need to see it to get the full effect: it's a black-and-white engraving ('The Cat and the Fox' by Gustave Doré, an illustration for the fable by La Fontaine) overprinted in gold on a photograph by Nancy Honey--a photo which calls to mind both the dunking method for finding witches and the swimming sessions undertaken by the book's teenagers in their local reservoir (under which lie the ruins of three drowned towns). Click for much bigger versions of each.
Monday, 11 July 2011
Sunday, 11 April 2010
When I was a child I was obsessed with monsters, an obsession fuelled by avid watching of Doctor Who and various child-friendly versions of the Greek myths. My Bible at the time was the Usborne Book of Monsters. And then, when I was about 12 or so, a great-uncle gave me a copy of Jorge Luis Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings, with Peter Goodfellow's Bosch-y cover painting. It blew my tiny mind, because it wasn't just an encyclopaedia of monsters, but was funny and clever and inventive at the same time--a collection of stories disguised as a reference book. It got me hooked on Borges well before I could understand more than a fraction of what he wrote about.
Cut to last week, when I got copies of two collections of Borges' poetry: Poems of the Night and The Sonnets. They're beautiful collections, made even more so by the covers designed by Ben Wiseman.
Three collections of Borges' essays are also due soon from Penguin, with more Wiseman covers.
Wiseman has produced a number of other great covers for a variety of publishers. Here are some of my favourites, starting with three elegant Chekhovs.