- Laszlo Krasznahorkai – The Melancholy of Resistance is an amazing and powerful book. Called by Susan Sontag “the contemporary Hungarian master of apocalypse” this book deserves a read! Long, flowing sentences depicting a village, a visiting circus, and a giant whale in a truck. Turned into the great film Werckmeister Harmonies by Bela Tarr.
- E.M. Forster – An excellent example of the New Directions Alvin Lustig dust jackets from the New Classics series.
- Frank Bidart – This book won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was nominated for the National Book Award. Nice associative inscription to fellow writer.
- Karl Shapiro – Nice collection by Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner.
- Yasunari Kawabata – Nobel Prize winners (1968) collection of over 70 of his short short stories. A form he practiced through much of his career that may give the reader an intimate, distilled look at his art.
- Michael Punke – The first edition of this tale of Hugo Glass, the driven (mad?) mountain man, who, after surviving a bear attack, tracks the men who abandoned him. Turned into the powerful and beautiful film, The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Alejandro Inarritu.
I have always enjoyed great dust jacket art, and a particular vintage especially. One can imagine the designer/artist sitting at a layout board with various tools, graphic elements, the colors and brushes of his or her trade. I have a fine art background, so have always been drawn to jackets that carry a painting, screen print, drawing, but equally appreciate the amazing graphic work of Alvin Lustig. If you have not seen his work, do yourself the favor of looking through some of his groundbreaking work at the site dedicated to him. Another of the greats is George/Georg Salter, famous for his Atlas Shrugged, Berlin Alexanderplatz, Of Mice and Men, Hopscotch, and numerous others. If you find yourself with a free moment, I can’t encourage you enough to spend some time browsing their work. It will amaze and awe you how fresh and contemporary much of it feels. Your visits to bookstores will be altered, I promise. With myself, if I am browsing newer books, usually designed under the Photoshop/Illustrator era, I am largely disappointed. Much of it feels too much like a billboard, flashy, cheap, artlessly clamoring for my dollars. That being said, there is currently much interesting work being done by Peter Mendelsund, several of whose covers seem to be a strongly influenced by these earlier luminaries. The Los Angeles Review of Books has an interesting interview with him. Yes, jackets, are meant to catch you, to sell you, to pulse from the shelf as a continuous beacon for your attention, which I tend to resent in most other commercial fields, and yet, I do love a wonderfully designed book cover, and can fiercely hate poor and lazy ones. It’s an affront to the objects caught in an industry already under immense pressure of growing monopolies and diminishing space. In this spirit, I will be occasionally highlighting covers I think powerful, beautiful, interesting.
Please feel free to leave comments about your thoughts on book cover design, favorites, design in general (we are not limited to just books here, but movie posters, magazine, etc)
Happy to have Wittgenstein’s Mistress come through our stock recently. I have always loved the early Dalkey Archive Press jackets, the ones vaguely resembling zines and Xerox. That is not to say it’s all “punk” or DIY, but with these jackets Dalkey brought some of that aesthetic, though refined, to their platform of heady, “experimental” literature. This title is of course one the most important from their list. David Foster Wallace famously wrote: “…that a novel this abstract and erudite and avant-garde that could also be so moving makes “Wittgenstein’s Mistress” pretty much the high point of experimental fiction in this country. [courtesy Salon article ]