Thursday 23 January 2014

A book I just got and am looking forward to reading is Chang-rae Lee's On Such a Full Sea, his first foray into science-fiction. My sense is that Lee is too subtle and intelligent a writer to make the sort of mess most 'literary' novelists make when they jump genre boundaries, and I hope to be proven right. I really lied the cover when it was first shown...

..but didn't know until after I'd bought it that there was a special edition Penguin was releasing making use of a 3D-printed plastic slipcase. (I've experimented, so far not very successfully, with 3D printing myself, but the capabilities of the machines so far exceed my limited digital modelling skills--though nothing I've done has gone as poorly as these things.) Both versions of the book were designed by Helen Yentus.

It's probably for the best that I didn't know about this, really, given that: a) I can't afford it at US$150, and b) trying to cram this into my already groaning shelves would cause some serious carnage to the back cover of Rebecca Lee's rather excellent Bobcat, a book too pretty to assault in this way.

The Casual Optimist features a video about the making of the slipcase.

Thursday 9 January 2014

Barbey, Bombay, Manto, Narayan, Haapaniemi?

In March this year, Vintages US and UK are publishing a collection of Indian/Pakistani writer Saadat Hasan Manto's Bombay short stories. It will be wonderful to be able to read these in English at last. I first discovered Manto through his entertaining Stars From Another Sky, a collection of writings about Bombay's film world in the 1940s. It's gossipy, funny and throughly enjoyable even if, like me, you know none of the films or actors he writes about.

Published by Penguin India, it's sporadically available in other countries depending on your luck.

Back to Bombay Stories: the US edition uses a photo by Bruno Barbey, taken in Bombay itself in 1980.

It's a wonderful picture: what at first glance looks like an idyllic image of a man sleeping, watched by peacocks on a luxurious pedestal, snaps into focus as you realise the peacocks and window are a print on paper or fabric, and he's sleeping on a hard wooden floor.

It's a photo I forst encountered on the cover of the old Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics edition of the sadly underrated R. K. Narayan's The Guide. Much decorated and frequently rediscovered by various classics publishers, Narayan still doesn't get the respect he deserves outside of India.

The photo is also on the cover of this collection of Bruno Barbey's photographs, many of them from India. The book is published by Turkey-based Fotografevi.

The Vintage UK edition of Manto's Bombay Stories also makes use of peacocks, in a detailed and slightly hallucinatory illustration that looks very like the work of Klaus Haapaniemi (see his Leskov peacocks in this post).

While waiting for March, seek out these other Manto collections, also from Penguin India.

Thursday 2 January 2014

The New Book from Pan Macmillan That Copied the Slightly Older Book From Hesperus

Let's start the new year with a copycat cover.

Major publishing companies pass on a quirky title about a misbehaving old man translated from the Swedish, but it turns out to be a surprise hit for the admirable Hesperus Press:

Major publishing company (Pan Macmillan) quickly decides they want some of that lovely cash, buys rights to another quirky title about a growing old disgracefully, translated from the Swedish, copies cover of hit Hesperus book.

To be fair, purple and blue are different colours.