Author-picture front covers?

October 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve recently become more and more enamoured with how striking the front cover of a book (especially a novel) can be with simply a large picture of the author in the front. I know it says nothing about the content inside, and it seems something you shouldn’t be advocating in the post death-of-the-author age or, on the the other hand (or as part of the latter, I guess), in a slightly tedious/pernicious author-as-celebrity culture. But there is something visually arresting and at the same time quaint, maybe, about it. Also, in the age of often very bad, aesthetically crap, rudimentary covers for current novels (I love the Private Eye comparisons of the ridiculously similar novel covers that the mass publishing world seems to be churning out at the moment), this seems like a much better default.

My favourite series for this is John Calder’s Jupiter books series from the sixties of paperback reissues of contemporary classic experimental-type fiction, which are exclusively author-picture front covers. I’ll post my favourite, of Michel Butor’s Passing Time at a later date (it has a pipe on it), but for now, I’ve got one Jupiter book – of Nathalie Sarraute’s The Planetarium (from 1965) – and one cover of a bibliography (from 1992) of the SF writer Brian W. Aldiss, which was compiled by his wife, Margaret (I especially love the (appropriately for a rigorous bibliography and for an SF author, both of which seem to be closer to the world of quantitative analysis, data, etc. than other “literary” things) almost instruction-manual vibe of this one, only helped, I suppose, by the library barcode which is on the copy I took here). Happy Sunday.

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Portrait of a Man Unknown

June 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Because I promised pictures, and because, when I can, I half-collect 1960s paperbacks of the books I am interested in for my PhD, I thought I might start putting scans of their front covers on this blog, because they look nice, or at least interesting. This one’s the first British edition of Maria Jolas’s translation of Nathalie Sarraute’s Portrait d’un Inconnu, published by John Calder. I think it first appeared in paperback in 1961, although it was originally published in hardback in (and the date in the front of the book says) 1959.

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