Tuesday 30 June 2009

Faber & Faber & Faber & Faber...

My most recent purchase of book porn is Faber and Faber: Eighty Years of Book Cover Design (which I first mentioned here).

This is a lovely, oversized (roughly A4) collection of images of Faber's covers from 1929 onwards. The text is minimal, but there are hundreds and hundreds of pretty pictures to look at. Excuse the photographs (which you can click for much bigger views), but there was no way I was killing this thing's spine with my scanner.

The book itself had its cover designed by Neil Gower, mimicking the classic work of Berthold Wolpe, who did pretty much all of Faber's covers for some 35 years (as well as designing Albertus, the font used on this and many other earlier Faber covers).

Faber, at least in its earlier decades, did not have the range of cover art of, say, Penguin, due in part to having one designer with a consistent vision, but there are plenty of gems here.

My only criticism is that Connolly seems to lose interest after about 1980, and there are hardly any covers from the last 30 years shown here. This means that there are few of Pentagram's covers, and, weirdly, absolutely none by Andrzej Klimowski. It was Klimowski's covers for the work of Milan Kundera that first caught my eye and drew my attention to Faber back in the late 1980s/early 1990s, when I was a young lad for whom the combination of literature and naked women was pretty much irresistable.

(For Klimowski doing Wodehouse, see here.)

Sunday 28 June 2009

Spines on a Cover, and a Query

It's a book I'm unlikely to read because of various literary and political prejudices, but the cover of Patrick Hennessey's The Junior Officers' Reading Club is appealing. (Though I think actual little plastic soldiers, rather than digitally added little real soldiers, would have looked a bit better.)

As a book from Penguin/Allen Lane, they've slipped in quite a few Penguin spines in that lot.

On another note, does anyone in Britain know whether the publisher Hesperus Press still exists? Their website is "being updated", their blog hasn't been touched since April, their various social network sites are gathering dust, and all of the books they were going to publish over the last few months, including this one discussed earlier, remain unavailable.

This, by the way, is obviously not one of those promised "more substantial posts" I was on about last time.

Thursday 25 June 2009

Bits & Bobs

Just a couple of semi-random things to look at while I work on some more substantial posts (or at least that's my story).

First, I've recently discovered the comics work of writer/artist Jordan Crane. As well as producing various one-off graphic novels and comics, he has an occasional ongoing series called Uptight, which features his graphic short stories. I especially like his sense for eye-catching cover design. Click for bigger versions.

Secondly, some more cover image duplicates, just because I keep finding them.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Making Your Own

Here's an excellent idea stolen from Alan Trotter's ≥ blog. Like many people, I have a backlog of things stumbled across on the internet that look as though they'd be really interesting if I ever got around to reading them, but which are longer than I want to read on-screen. Trotter suggests putting them all together as a one-off print-on-demand book. A fine idea, which I have just finished doing, as an experiment in using the Lulu POD system.

My own version contains a mix of articles, short stories and artwork gathered from all over the place. Now, instead of these things sitting on my hard drive, forever unread, I'm looking forward to having a physical book to read (allegedly I'll have it in about a week). Of course, this also allowed me to indulge in a bit of cover design.

This is what the book should look like (more pictures when it arrives). Click for bigger.

The cover image is a photo I took of one of the residents of our backyard, a bluetongue lizard, and the title was suggested by his/her rather judgemental look. This lizard (which is about 30cm long) likes to come out and sunbathe during the day, but then has to deal with our cat, who is compelled by lunatic instinct to rush past it at regular intervals, tagging it nervously with a paw in passing, and then getting the hell away before getting a savage gumming.

UPDATE: Alan Trotter points out that the original idea comes from Thoughtwax.

Sunday 21 June 2009

"They Make Lady Chatterly and Lolita Look Like Lambs!'

That blurb (with a characteristic mis-spelling of 'Chatterley') comes from a book called 5 Wild Dames! This book came to my attention when I was complaining about the way some "authors" lend their names to other writers' work. The most recent egregious example is the book allegedly co-written by Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro, The Strain, which was actually entirely written by one Chuck Hogan, working from a 12-page "treatment" of del Toro's. I couldn't help feeling that there is no less inspiring a name, literarily speaking, than 'Chuck Hogan'.

That was until Big Bob Tralins was brought to my attention.

The author photo on the back is truly grand in its awfulness. The readers of these books might have been operating on the moral and mental level of masturbating chimpanzees, but I don't think that having the writer pose as one was the best idea.

Tralins had a whole sewer of books to his credit.

Amongst these titles, Jazzman in Nudetown has an almost inspired anti-genius to it.

For close analysis of a relatively restrained Tralins cover, The Chic Chick Spy, you must go here.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Suckers Kissing in Scottsboro

A duplicated cover image with the main difference being an arm amputation.

Monday 15 June 2009

The Woodcuts of Simon Brett

There is a lot of received wisdom in the publishing industry about what does and doesn't sell:

* Short stories don't sell.

* Translations don't sell.

* Poetry doesn't sell.

* Slim books don't sell.

Thus, a slender book of translated Russian short stories in verse is an obvious money-spinner. Fortunately, publisher David R. Godine ignored the financial side of things, and put out Antony Wood's translations of a number of Alexander Pushkin's narrative poems, The Gypsies.

This gorgeous little book features a number of woodcuts by engraver Simon Brett. Here's a sample (click for a bigger version) from 'The Golden Cockerel'.

Brett is great. He's done a lot of work in the past for the Folio Society; here's a selection.

For George Eliot's Middlemarch:

Marcus Aurelius's Meditations:

Aristotle's Ethics:

Cicero's On the Good Life:

Lucretius's On the Nature of Things:

John Keats (soon to be cinematically fucked up by Jane Campion!):

Henry Fielding's Amelia:

and Legends of the Ring:

* * *

Further reading: a different set of Pushkin illustrations, including Ivan Bilibin on 'The Golden Cockerel'; plus the woodcut geniuses Lynd Ward and Fritz Eichenberg.

Friday 12 June 2009

Penguin Hoax

Just a brief one for now: a forthcoming (September 2009) book about the history of literary hoaxes, by Melissa Katsoulis, is to have a nicely faked Penguin cover, being actually published by Constable & Robinson. (Click for a bigger version.)

Designer details to come, if I can work them out.

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Many Marilyns

Here's another of those images that is much used on book covers: the famous shot of Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses (and suspiciously close to the end), taken by Eve Arnold.

A different photo by the same photographer of the same subject reading the same book was used on the cover for the Picador Book of Contemporary Irish Fiction, which I particularly enjoyed as it had a lot of (excellent) short stories, and relatively few extracts from novels.

Novel extracts piss me off no end; they seem so pointless (and this is one of the reasons I no longer read Granta magazine--most of their new fiction turns out to be bits from novels in progress). If you want to read the book, read the whole book, rather than a segment that was never designed to be read in isolation.

The worst offender in this regard from recent years is the Vintage Book of War Stories, which is in fact nothing of the sort. It's actually the Vintage Book of Extracts from War Novels, containing only one single solitary self-contained story, and that one only a couple of pages long.

Circling back to the topic of Marilyn Monroe and cover duplications, see this cover for what used to be just called the Faber Book of Blue Verse.

While the same image being used on another cover is not that unusual...

..it's the first time I've seen an unrelated image being used on both a book cover and a movie poster.

UPDATE: The wise ctorre points out that "You boys don't know your Marylin. Arthur Miller confirmed that she had indeed read Ulysses, and that she wanted more of Molly Bloom." So I stand corrected.