Wednesday 30 June 2010

This Damned Necklace Won't Stay On (Part 2)

In response to this post...

..She Reads and Reads spotted another use of these images (by Martin Scott-Jupp)... which I'll add this one...

A Century in Fiction

There must be some I missed, but here goes: the last 100 years in fiction...

For any novelists looking for a title, there's a near half-century available from the Wall Street Crash to the Watergate scandal.

Monday 28 June 2010

Puffin Magic

I've been wanting to post about this for a while, but my camera has been uncooperative until today--this was not a book I was going to press flat in the scanner. It's Phil Baines's Puffin by Design, designed by Tom Sanderson, a companion to 2005's Penguin by Design. And it's a beauty!

A comprehensive and beautifully illustrated to 70 years of some of the most gorgeous children's books in publishing, this book is heaven to anyone interested in book design. Have a look at some of the inner spreads (click every image in this post for much bigger versions).

Perhaps best of all, though, is that cover, designed by Tom Sanderson. It's a photo, not a manipulated image. Sanderson was kind enough to let me use this image of its construction.

Having read this, I have a deep urge to revisit the books of my youth. Looking through the covers collected here has reminded me of numerous books I loved when I found them on school library shelves, but which had vanished into the deep storage of my memory in the intervening years--books which, more often than not, I first took down from the shelf because of the cover art.

Thursday 24 June 2010

The Unexpected Intrusion of Television

UPDATED: See the end of the post for comments by John Parot.

It's all over the internet, at least if you visit the distinctly nerdy places I do: Penguin got some contestants on an irritating sounding become-the-next-great-modern-artist TV show to design a book cover, and then rushed the result into print. This is the underwhelming result:

The artist, John Parot, described his inspiration as "my reality and gay culture", apparently, which is part of my problem with this thing: it's about the artist and not at all about the book, which is a self-indulgent mistake. I don't mind the type, to be honest: at least it's hand-drawn, with all of the irregularities that entails, rather than being some free distorted font slaped on there. Overall, though, it's not much good, and the banner across the top makes it even worse.

Still, you only need to look at some of the other possibilities, and you can see how much worse it could have been. And I can't quite believe I just linked to the site of a "reality" show. Excuse me while I slit my wrists. Take a look at some of these hideous contenders, and you may feel the need to do the same:

This reminds me of the time Penguin asked musicians to design covers for them, and got a bunch of murky, shitty rubbish.

UPDATE: John Parot commented on this post, and I think it's fair to reproduce what he had to say here, to give his side of the story: 

Hi! I thought I'd enlighten some of you haters. You misunderstood some things. I was asked to create a book design for the Penguin Classic "The Time Machine". When we met with the representative we were asked to create a cover that would win new readers to these old classics. My inspiration for the piece was not my "gay culture" or gayness or whatever it was called. On the T.V show the producer showcased my professional artwork. They sited that in my profession artwork I reference my gay reality and it is a constant theme. This book and the design has nothing to do with being gay.

I grew up in a Library, my Dad is a historian and librarian. I grew up collecting paperbacks and have seen many covers. For this cover I was thinking of the gorgeous Milton Glaser Illustrations in the sixties as well as the classic psychedelic sci-fi of the 70's That is where the "jumble of purple/pink" colors comes from. It is stylized time machine. not the one described in the book, but one i wanted new readers to go into. Since the book is psychological as well as fantastical, I decided my machine would have a profile of a person, to echo the struggles of the main character.

What surprises me the most of all of you is no one has commented on the decline of the book cover from the 50's to the present. John Grisham covers anyone? The nineties were darker then some of the clunkers that were on the show last night! Finally, I love my cover and so do my new friends at Penguin. I would love to chat more on the subject. Come meet me. I will be signing copies of my design at the Vroman's:  Wed, June 30th.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Lynd Ward II

Later this year, the Library of America is producing a very handsome two-volume set of six 'woodcut novels' by the great Lynd Ward. I wrote more extensively about Ward here, so go there to see why he's worth pursuing. All I can say here is that, even though I own all of these books already, I'm sorely tempted by the loveliness of this set.

Before now, the Ward flame has been kept burning by Dover Publications, who have reprinted many of his woodcut novels, as well as his illustrated version of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, in editions that are both cheap and attractive (except for the sometimes over-loud typography on the front covers). If you want to see what the fuss is about, any of those volumes are well worth your time.

Monday 21 June 2010


Having read about a "controversial" new YA novel, which rewrites Anne Frank's story to include "explicit and intimate details" of sex and lust, I was hoping that the cover might be in hideous taste, but it's sadly restrained.

For something less restrained you have to go to the Japanese, where this Manga version of her life features the wholly unnecessary inclusion of Astro Boy and his sister.

Speaking of the unexpected, I seem to have somehow signed up to a thing called Bookblips, which is some sort of social media/blog aggregating/news thing about books, which every week sends me a list of popular net articles about books. I do wonder at the software responsible for choosing images to go with the stories, though, as this is not necessarily the memorial José Saramago would have expected.

See this post for Tom Gauld's brilliant Saramago covers.

While I'm on the topic of e-foolishness, it would be great if a certain Nigerian spammer stopped trying to leave comments on old posts. A word of advice to them: if you're looking for someone to scam, choosing a less alarming fake name than 'Elizabeth Bathory' would be a wise move.

Thursday 17 June 2010

AIGA Nominees

Via This Isn't Happiness, I saw the AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers selections. Here are my favourites, excluding those I've already talked about elsewhere on the blog.

Designed by Barbara de Wilde

Designed by Brad Norr

Designed by Catherine Casalino

Designed by Alison Forner

 Designed by Robin Bilardello

Designed by Isaac Tobin

Designed by Keenan

Designed by Kelly Blair