Mega-seller Dan Brown’s next novel, which comes out May 14, features Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon on another code-cracking quest, this one inspired by Dante’s seminal poem “The Inferno.” Check out the cover, which Random House just revealed today. What do you think?
Yes, the art of book design in the United States has come a long long way in the last ten years, with a few designers, like Chip Kidd, and a handful of comic book artists, attaining something of a cult status. But check out the striking difference between the English version of Howard Jacobson’s No More Mr. Nice Guy, and the American version.
Here’s what American readers are getting come September:
And here, ladies and gentlemen, is what U.K. readers were given in 1998:
Granted, naked noseless women are far more attention-grabbing than a business man prostrate on a rococo queen-size bed, so tuckered out from making money (or making his money make money) that, to quote Capote, it was “as if sleep were a weapon that had struck him from behind.”
But content aside, there is an obvious and often disparity in artistry, here.
What do you think? Is this about the Brits just being better? Or is this about willingness to take risks? Have you come across wildly different covers for different editions of books you love?
Although we didn’t get a confirmation, we don’t ever recall there being a tie for the winner of the Best Graphic Album-New award at the annual Will Eisner Comics Industry Awards, held Friday night at the Bayfront Hilton as part of the 2011 Comic-Con International. But that’s what happened.
Daniel Clowes’s Wilson (Drawn & Quarterly) and Jim McCann and Janet Lee’s Return of the Dapper Men (Archaia) ended up in a flat-footed tie for the big book prize that brings the awards event to a close.
That was certainly a highlight moment of the comics industry’s big gala awards show, “the Oscars” or “The National Book Awards” of the comics industry depending on your preference for gala media events. But there were other captivating moments throughout the evening (an evening that clocked in at about 3 hours this year). Among them: Paul Levitz, former president and publisher of DC Comics, winning his first Eisner award (Best Comics-Related Book) for 75 years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking (Taschen); two trips to the podium by Fantagraphics publisher Kim Thompson to accept Eisners (Best U.S. edition of International Material and Best Reality-based Work) on behalf of French cartoonist Jacques Tardi; Fabio Moon and twin brother Gabiel Ba citing the comic book reading of their mom when they accepted their Eisner (Best Limited Series) for Daytripper (Vertigo); the pure screaming delight of Raina Telgemeier when she won (Best Publication for Teens) for Smile (Scholastic/Graphix) and the backslapping and boozy grins of Shannon Wheeler (Best Humor Publication) and his publisher Chip Mosher when Wheeler won for I Thought You Would be Funnier (Boom!).
Joyce Brabner and daughter Danielle were on stage for the induction of her late husband, the great autobiographical comics writer Harvey Pekar, into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame. Brabner also used the occasion to remind the audience of her Kickstarter.com campaign to raise funds to build a statue of Pekar in Cleveland and she outlined–in classic Brabner fashion–how she insisted on a statue that would truly represent the spirit of Harvey.
And we have to confess a moment of pride and connection at the induction of the great underground cartoonist and historian of the Texas Republic, Jack Jackson. For a brief moment in 2003-2004 I was the graphic novel editor at Reed Press, a short-lived trade publishing imprint at Reed Elsevier, and had the honor and privilege of somehow convincing Jackson (who was both skeptical and encouraging to me) into letting us reprint his classic work of graphic nonfiction Comanche Moon, the cover of which was used to illustrate Jackson’s induction into the Eisner Hall of Fame. He was a great cartoonist and an equally great and engaging historian and bringing that book back into print for a short while was without a doubt the highlight of my short career as a comics publisher.
Last and certainly not least, we’d like to send a shoutout to our colleague at PW Comics World, Heidi MacDonald, who was nominated for an Eisner (Best Comics-Related Periodical-Journalism) for her pioneering comics news and culture blog, The Beat. She didn’t win (congratulations to Comic Book Resources on their Eisner award) but she’s still a winner! For a complete list of Eisner winners go to the Comic-Con International Website.
People love buying used books because you feel like a part of something, a past that’s put its mark in the book’s pages and binding.
Most of the time, you don’t know exactly who else has read the book, unless you find some sort of inscription, which is where The Book Inscription Project comes in.
The blog collects the best personal inscriptions out there, letting us glimpse the lives of others in sometimes heartfelt, sometimes funny ways.
Take, for example, the inscription in Elliott Smith by Autumn de Wilde: For Tara, Because no one ever gave you a book with an inscription before, because you love photographs, because we are obsessed with Elliott, and because I’m in love with the world through the eyes of a girl. -Seth
Or the inscription in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It reads: MACK….IN A TIME OF NON HEROES AND ANTIHEROES, A TRUE HERO, A REAL MAN. I’M SURE YOU’LL LOVE HIM AS I DO. AFTER ALL, HOW CAN WE HELP BUT LOVE GOD?
Kind of makes us want to write in everything we have now. What shall we write in our copy of Smokin’ Seventeen?
The website Cover Browser is a rabbit hole for book lovers, nostalgia lovers, or even Americana lovers. With over 450,000 covers on the site, it’s easy to get caught in an infinite loop of arcane books, comics, and magazines.
To get you started, we’ll give you one of our personal favorites. User Spacesick has created 13 fake, wonderfully retro-looking book covers for imaginary film-to-book adaptations in a series called “I Can Read Movies.”
Our favorite is the Highlander cover, which manages to be both understated and badass.
The only thing that beats a great book cover is a great book. These are the books that you bring on the subway in order to be seen reading them on the subway. Here are nine of our favorites, all of which also double as arguments against e-Readers:
1. The Penguin Book of Gaslight Crime (cover by Jaya Miceli)
2. The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno (cover by Jamie Keenan)
3. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (cover by David Pearson)
4. Small Crimes in an Age of Abundance: Stories by Matthew Kneale (cover by David Drummond)
5. The Short Novels of John Steinbeck (cover by Jen Wang)
6. Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem (UK edition, cover by Miriam Rosenbloom)
7. We Are the Friction (cover by Lizzy Stewart and Jez Burrows)
8. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (UK edition, cover by Coralie Bickford-Smith)
9. Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov (cover by Michael Bierut)
You probably have something fun planned for this weekend, but in case you’ve got some wide open time and want to take a look at something both extremely obsessive and extremely interesting, we direct you to this growing database of vintage book cover scans at Bookscans.com. The site’s goal, according to its operator, is to “provide a visual catalog of ALL vintage American paperbacks (for my purposes, this is roughly the first 20 years of paperback-sized books; especially those printed before 1960 and/or having a 25¢ or 35¢ cover price).”
At the site, you’ll find tens of thousands of images like the one above, representing an extraordinary collective consciousness of creative energy and marketing. In this age of accessible digital archives, it seems like a true shame to lose artifacts like these book covers, which tell more than words can about bygone eras. Thankfully, due to this site, among other resources, we don’t have to.
Jim Shepard’s Gojira, King of the Monsters is out next week from Solid Objects, a New York press recently founded by poet and critic Max Winter and poet and translator Lisa Lubasch.
At 52 pages, the work falls into the murky and, for some reason, often controversial, realm between the “long short story” and the novella.
When I asked Winter how he’d come to be publishing a single short work by Jim Shepard, he said he’d been a fan of Shepard’s for years and contacted him when he and Lubasch decided to start the press. Shepard sent him Gojira, and Winter was “moved and fascinated. One immediate draw for me,” Winter said, “was what you could call the cult of Godzilla [the American-ization of the original Japanese title], an observed, long-standing intense interest in both the Japanese and American versions of the monster and the film. In addition, the movie has always been important historically, as an influence on other movies and as a metaphor for America’s status in the world at the time of its release.”
Set mostly in 1954, Shepard’s novella sticks closely to Eiji Tsuburaya, the real life special effects director of the historic film (known during production as only “project G”), revealing a Japanese man torn, like many, between home and work. “He was falling behind everywhere: in his wife’s affections and in his work’s responsibilities,” writes Shepard. Tsuburaya’s wife, Masano, is unhappy, and seems to shoulder the lion’s share of grief over the loss of their young daughter years before. She’s also not thrilled that Hajime, their 19-year-old son, wants to follow in dad’s footsteps; indeed, Tsuburaya gets him a job working on the film as a camera assistant helping to shoot the miniatures (of which there are many). Continue reading
“The beach where the body washed up is wide and white, with cafes raised on silts and couples drinking beer in the sand.” This sentence begins Swift’s account of the last days of his grandfather, James Eric Swift, a bomber pilot for the RAF during WWII. But Bomber County is no biography. Swift circles his grandfather’s service to examine not just the man but also the myth that the second world war, unlike the first, failed to produce significant poetry; it lacked an image of sufficient horror to grasp the imagination of artists, so the thinking goes. Swift disagrees. The bombing campaign was to WWII what the trench was to WWI. “Bombing forced new verse,” Swift writes, bringing T.S. Elliot, Virginia Woolf, Andrew Marvell, James Dickey, John Ciardi, Stephen Spender and dozens of other poets, including poet-pilots, into a loose narrative that allows him to spiral off again and again on unexpected tangents. In this way the book reminded me a little bit of Sebald’s Rings of Saturn.
By using poetry and the sorrowful story of his grandfather’s fate, Swift is also able to address the morality of sweeping destruction. The guilt question doesn’t come up until late in the book but when it does it sticks. “Again and again, in the poetry of this war, we find the new landscape of a bombed city; again and again, in the new landscape of this war, we find a poet going out for a walk in the rubble.” Swifts’s grandfather, though not himself a poet, went for one of these walks. “He is thinking now, of his own work; he is considering his guilt,” Swift writes. “The early summer of 1943 marked the start of the moral problem of bombing and the close of my grandfather’s war. He was lost, neatly, at just the right time, and so I could tell you here the story of a hero…” Earlier, when considering for the first time the details of his grandfather’s work, he writes:
In the dusk, you go out to the plane, and sit on the grass, and smoke. You know that you will have no real food for ten hours. You have a Thermos of tea, and a piece of chocolate, but it will be so cold in the plane that you have to hold the chocolate in your mouth to warm it up. It will feel like minus fifty degrees and your teeth will ache, and so you get dressed up. Uniform, then a wooly, a thick jumper, then a fur-lined flying suit, with zips, so that if you are wounded they can unzip it from your body; on your feet, silk socks, then Air Force socks, then wool socks, then flying boots. The planes take off close. As one lifts, another is beginning to roll along the runway, and the next is joining the queue.
Throughout the book Swift’s prose is highly restrained; this is his only use of the second person. Of the numerous ways that Swift could have relayed this information, he chose the tricky second person, because it creates an immediate intimacy; that “you” is the reader, and the cockpit comes alive, and that “you” is also Frank Swift, and in this moment you feel Daniel Swift move a bit closer to a grandfather he only knows on paper.
Swift, a frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, and The Times Literary Supliment, is an excellent writer (this is his first book), and Bomber County is a unique and beautiful book.
Illustrator Kate Beaton has been having serious fun with classic book covers over on her webcomic, Hark, a Vagrant. She has four groups of comics posted based on covers illustrated by Edward Gorey here, here, here, and here. (Oh, and in case it needs saying, they can be R-rated, for those with delicate sensibilities.) Hence, The Secret of the Underground Room (above) is indeed a horrifying secret, and in Beaton’s take on Troilus and Cressida, the lovers can’t get to first base.
Anyone else doing funny comic twists on literature that we should know about? Share it with us in the comments.
All images copyright Kate Beaton.