Wednesday, 30 November 2016

An Unusually Honest Cover...

I like the specificity and honesty of the text on this cover.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Dressing Books

In 2015 Jhumpa Lahiri gave the keynote speech to the Festival degli Scrittori, the Florence literary festival. Her chosen topic, and obviously one dear to my own heart, was "the clothing of books"--a writer's view on the design of book covers and the conflicts between authors and marketers. Now her talk has been turned into a book itself, a short and attractive paperback from vintage US.

(Cover design by Joan Wong (with thanks to Aldrin for this info).)

Lahiri's talk begins from her own experiences as the child of immigrants, always dressed incorrectly in clothes that are durable but out of fashion, marking her out as an Indian amongst Americans. And her own experiences with the covers for her books are not much better, leading her to want to abandon individual cover designs altogether: "most of my book jackets don't fit me, which is why I sometimes think, as a writer too, that a uniform would be the answer." She is also lucky enough to be an author published in many languages across the world, which exposes her to different cultures' attempts to encapsulate her books in different ways. Unfortunately this all too often seems to end up with the decision to slap a picture of a sari on the front (see this related post).

It's a thoughtful and enjoyable book, but also one slightly hurt by its failure to include images of any of the covers Lahiri talks about; and her own descriptions are often too vague for even a thorough Googling to determine which covers she means in any particular instance--especially one which she describes "a certain awful cover for one of my books that elicits in me an almost violent response. Each time I am asked to autograph that edition, I feel the impulse to rip the cover off the book." I want to know what cover she means!

It's not just her books that suffer from visual misrepresentation. When Lahiri's previous book came out, a portrait of her featured on the front cover of The New York Review of Books. Lahiri is a perfectly normal looking person... quite why she ended up depicted like this is a surprise.

My three-year-old daughter insisted I turn the magazine face-down because "she looks like a witch!" and it was frightening her while she was trying to eat her breakfast.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Now Tweeting

As visitors to the site will see to the right, I am now tweeting. With any luck this blog will be updated more frequently from now on, but I will also be ranting about books and book design with severe space constraints there too.

In the meantime, enjoy this sample:

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Australian Bigots Are Also Dishonest, Who Knew?

In Australia one of the current favourite targets for bigots, scumbags, libertarians and other assorted Trump-emboldened shitheads is section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, which makes unlawful any act reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people because of their race, colour, nationality or ethnicity. There's a push, which our Prime Minister (a weak-kneed and utterly pointless shell of a man who has mastered the lawyer's art of believing and orating pompously about whatever he has been paid to believe) now supports, to have it removed from the nation's laws.

Yesterday I saw this book, No Offence Intended: Why 18c Is Wrong, published by local right-wing dipshit press Connor Court, and the total dishonesty and speciousness of its cover really riled me up.

It's not young Asian women who are being "censored" by 18C. It's invariably the sort of white men who want to deport Muslims and abolish feminism, and who are terrified of the reality of a world that doesn't all look exactly like themselves, and whose frothing rabid hate speech hasn't exactly been curtailed by this law they claim to be so restrictive. Until 11 September 2001, these turds were shitting on Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants (when they weren't taking sex tours to Thailand). Now they pretend that these victims of theirs are the ones being oppressed, and that they are bravely defending their freedoms. To which we can only respond with a hearty Go fuck yourselves!.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Trends in Titling: Trains

Three recent/new books:

At this rate, each service in France's rail system should soon have its own book.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

A Cat Made of Flowers, A Fairy on a Throne of Bone

A new book from Tartarus Press, a small UK outfit that specialises in expensive but beautifully designed and edited collections of horror and weird fiction and criticism, caught my eye in their latest mailout. They don't use large images on their cover, preferring small insets on smooth fields of solid creamy colour, but the image they did use was quite startling.

At first I thought this was a computer-generated image, like the unsettling digital "sculptures" of Tom Darracott, as seen on the original UK covers for Keith Ridgway's excellent Hawthorn and Child and Han Kang's also excellent The Vegetarian (the first from Granta, the second from Portobello Books).

But when I investigated the artist behind the Tartarus John Collier cover, Cedric Laquieze, I found something stranger and more beautiful. What I took to be a piece of CGI was in fact a photo of an intricate sculpture of bones and flowers.

Laquieze has done a number of strange and beautiful works of art along these lines, from fairies constructed of insect parts...

.. with some on thrones of bone.. more uncomfortably mammalian and human works.

That these images have not been used before for weird fiction is a great surprise--they're much more interesting then yet more tentacles and fog--and well done to Tartarus for recognising the potential.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Lust, Madness, Cruelty, Deception; but enough about me

>Blows dust off surfaces, has coughing fit, sits down for a bit.<

Ahem. Sorry about the long delay. Let's get back into it, shall we?

Penguin's latest reshuffling and rebadging of Roald Dahl's adult short stories is a nice set of four themed collections, each with a newly commissioned painting from Charming Baker. I must admit that I've never really enjoyed these stories much; Dahl seems too contemptuous of his characters and too much of a reveller in the cruelties he creates for them to sit well with me. But the best of them are still worth reading, and with these covers they're unlikely to look prettier. Click to embiggen.

I also have a fondness for the creepy Penguin Modern Classics versions of several Dahl books, though the two story collections here are already out of print due to the constant reshuffling/rebadging mentioned above...

Of course, if you want some unreservedly excellent creepy short stories, can I direct you to these Shirley Jackson collections, each of which is irritatingly much more attractive than the editions I own?

A couple of other Penguin takes on Dahl are here...

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Nice New Covers for Ridiculous Tone-Deaf Bigot

Penguin is pushing out some nicely restrained covers for a couple of Richard Dawkins's books on their various anniversaries.

Given his horrible online presence (see here and here for summaries) where he attacks children interested in science because they have brown skin, tells people to abort their babies, and retweets white supremacist propaganda, might I suggest Penguin add this title to their list?

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Nitwittted New Agers Refuted by Authors No Longer As Good As They Once Were #2 (Also He's Dead)

“Yes, it is true that sometimes unusually intelligent and sensitive children can appear to be stupid. But stupid children can sometimes appear to be stupid as well. I think that's something you might have to consider.”
― Douglas Adams

Nitwittted New Agers Refuted by Authors No Longer As Good As They Once Were #1

“The universe is a million billion light-years wide, and every inch of it would kill you if you went there. This is the position of the universe with regards to human life.”
― Martin Amis