Thursday 27 February 2014

He Just Wants to Smoke in Peace, and Instead He's the Hardest-Working Man on Book Covers

Longer-term readers might remember the 'Man in Fog', a 1935 photo by Arthur Tanner that featured in this sites's first proper post, and which, when I last talked about it, had appeared on the covers of at least nine books (more, really, since the Simenon below stands in for a whole series of books featuring that image as an inset).

Here's his latest appearance, snowed-in and Berlin-ified for Dan Vyleta's Pavel & I's latest edition.

Furthermore, I've found him on another nine books since I last posted about him:

So with the earlier, previously logged, appearances displayed below, that's at least 19 books he's graced. He was also going to be on a 20th, an Alma Classics edition of a book by Céline, until I let them know about his ubiquity.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Dalkey Disappointments

This blog has shown much love for Dalkey Archive in the past, especially for the cover designs of Nicholas Motte, who did most of their recent output. However, I saw that their books from late 2013 onwards were getting a new look. here are some examples shown in various online catalogues:

I actually really like these: simple, bold, classic and, while not as colourful and pop as the Motte designs, quite appealing. I ordered a number of them. However, the books themselves turned up looking like this.

Presumably the original images were just placeholders. This is fine in itself--sometimes you need a picture for the catalogue or Amazon, and you put something there, knowing it will be changed later. But almost all of the final, actual covers are much uglier than these placeholders. The cover for Adibas is OK, and at least makes play with the Adidas logo that gives the book its title (Adibas being knock-off or counterfeit consumer goods). But Leningrad is a murky mess, and The Maya Pill is a truly ugly cover: the sort of thing that might have produced by a vanity press outfit in 1993.

Adibas, by the way, is also one of the worst books I've read in quite some time. It consists of extremely disaffected/affectless fictional vignettes of life in Georgia during the Russian invasion a few years ago; everyone keeps shopping or clubbing or fucking while Putin's tanks roll down the streets. The impression you get is that Burchuladze has read Brett Easton Ellis and nobody else ever. It's also one of the most misogynistic boioks I've read in a long time: women are defined almost entirely by the tightness of their vaginas, with their willingness to provide oral sex a vague secondary characteristic. I know you shouldn't confuse the writer with the narrator, and the shallowness is part of the book's point, but you honestly don't get anything from reading the whole book that you wouldn't have got from its blurb.

I don't know what's going on with Dalkey at the moment, but I hope it stops.

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Covers to Come

A feast of groovy covers of new/imminent/upcoming books...

Due in March: Black Moon is a very good and very unsettling novel set in a world where lethal insomnia is spreading like a plague; an owl mask worn by one of the survivors is the inspiration for this striking cover design.

Just out now, though apparently previously self-published, The Martian is about an astronaut stranded alone on Mars. This photographic cover is really beautiful, and surprisingly restrained for a SF novel these days.

The Intern's Handbook is about lethal shenanigans in the workplace; a very clever cover indeed.

Coming in July, Invisible Beasts is a beautiful semi-Borges-like fantastic and fictional menagerie. The cover uses bat illustrations from Ernst Haeckel's 1904 Kunstformen der Natur. See the original page here, and all of the other amazing pages here.

The front and back covers of a novel told from the point of view of a worker bee

From a collection of stories about literary bad behaviour and poor dentistry.

A gorgeous cover for Fullblood Arabian, a disappointing book of prose poems: I found them facile and pseudo-profound (the nod to Khalil Gibran in Lydia Davis's introduction should have tipped me off), but plenty of people disagree with me.  

Speaking of disappointing, Shantytown is the latest translation for an author I always want to like a lot more than I do (Aira is famous for never revising after the day of writing is over, which is fine and dandy, but I reckon it means he'll never write a great book). He gets great cover treatments, though.