Tuesday 29 May 2012


Just a quick post/question: what do people think about wildly and deliberately anachronistic cover images? Here, for example, are two recent-ish Modern Library Classics editions of nineteenth-century Russian novellas, but with decidedly 21st-Century covers which, while thematically appropriate, are obviously not at all accurate for the contents of the books.

They make a pleasant change from the usual old paintings on classics covers, but do they work?

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Mister and Missus

An intriguing special edition of a book forthcoming from Penguin Classics UK has caught my eye, and also puzzled me. Evan S. Connell, whose chilling The Diary of a Rapist gave me the heebie-jeebies, wrote paired novels Mrs Bridge and Mr Bridge, telling both sides of the complicated story of a marriage. They're coming out in paperback, one this year and one next year, but Penguin is also releasing the two together as a pricey special edition that looks like this (click for bigger):

I'm not at all certain out how this set works, though I'm assuming both books have a notch in the spine and inner margins, which would make opening and reading them a bit odd. I'd love to see them in reality, or get more info, but Penguin remain weirdly reticent on their various websites and publicity places. For this reason I don't know the designer, either. UPDATE: The book is the work of designer Ila in collaboration with Thomas Heatherwick, with Claire Mason doing the interiors.

And even though they wouldn't fit normally into any bookshelf, I want them!

Here is the paperback of the first book, which drops the usual Modern Classics look for an mid-century feel:

Monday 21 May 2012

Lispector Quartered

New Directions is about to release new translations of four of the great Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector's books (I read and loved her Hour of the Star and some short stories, and so have already ordered all of these). The covers, designed by Paul Sahre, combine to form a portrait of her.

This is the original portrait. It's quite a captivating photo, and I can well see why Sahre was inspired to use it.

And pleasingly, it seems the back also form a single image:

Picture stolen from Three Percent, whose Chad Post went off on an enraged rant a while back over the presence of a quote from dull old Franzen on one of the covers.

Here are the individual covers:

Wednesday 16 May 2012

50 Shades of Shamelessness

Thinking about all the cash-ins on Stieg Larsson's rubbish books, I wondered whether the same was happening for another depressing global book phenonmenon, the thinly-veiled Twilight fan fiction 50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James. And, indeed it is. All of the following books were/will be released in the four months between the start of March and the end of June this year. There are others, too, though most of those I suspect just have the misfortune to have coincidentally made use of the same cliche in their titles, so I've left them out.

Needless to say, pretty much all of these are self-published, sorry, 'independently published' books.

When your stock image doesn't quite fit, just squeeze it until it does. Sure, it makes your book look like something watched on a giant TV by one of those disgusting savages who spend thousands on a vast screen but then don't fix the aspect ratio, but who cares?

Who cares that it doesn't actually mean anything?

When one title for your endless series of knock-off zombie novels isn't enough, try three.

Shades of mould

Hilarious! Lucky nobody else came up with that title!
Oh, bugger.
A parody with overtones of domestic abuse. What could be funnier?

I see what they did there. Hilarious!

More aspect ratio issues. I hope against hope that 'Burt Maverick' is the author's real name.



Nothing says 'romance' like tiny internal organs exuded from antique surgical equipment.

Hilariou--! <Sound of self-administered shotgun blast to head>

How far can you inappropriately stretch a title in an attempt to scab a readership for your book? A case study.
Can the no-doubt hilarious Adam Roberts parody be far behind, presumably to be titled 'Gray Shades of Fifty'?

Saturday 12 May 2012

Vintage Bond II

Sorry for the break--illness of a particularly irritating and boring kind has got in the way. But in the meantime the rest of the upcoming Vintage Classics UK James Bond covers have emerged. I'm still not convinced, but I must admit they're growing on me. Here's the complete set.

Some, like Thunderball and The Spy Who Loved Me, seem just right, while I feel as though others aren't quite there yet. What do you think?

Tuesday 1 May 2012

A Naked Singularity

Let's invent an author. He writes about society in all its mad complexity, especially the bottom-dwellers, with numerous characters that are both cartoonish and fully rounded, often with unlikely names. The world he describes is also vaguely science-fictional, a sort of five-minutes-into-the-future world where everything is like now, only more so; where lapsed students try strange technological rituals to summon sitcom characters into the real world, and where the fabric of the universe itself is fraying.

We could call this writer something like Philip K. Dickens. But, in fact, we don't need to invent him, as he exists in the form of Sergio de la Pava, and I've recently read and loved his first novel, A Naked Singularity, originally self-published and now taken up by the excellent University of Chicago Press, who also publish the astounding Parker novels.. It's big and mad (in both sense of the word) and really rather wonderful, and despite its 700-page length I didn't find myself wishing for a heavy-handed editor, which is pretty rare for a book published in the last twenty years.

And look at the cover:

Living with this book for a number of days, carrying it around with me everywhere I went, that eye-warping pattern started infiltrating my brain.

It's not an easy book to describe, because there's so much in it, much of it in the form of extended, frequently hilarious, setpieces of Gaddis-like unattributed dialogue. It's ostensibly about in increasingly disaffected public defender in New York City. It's about the death penalty. It's a heist/caper novel. Basically, it's great.  

I heartily recommend it. (I even enjoyed the extended sections about boxing--and I'm the kind of snob who thinks pretty much all sport is stupid, but that boxing is the worst, since you can actually literally watch the contestants becoming even more stupid as a match progresses). If you can tear your eyes away from the Lovecraftian nightmare of the dancing covers, go and read it.