Tag Archives: Richard Bausch

Cover – Peter Mendelsund

I was very, very lucky this Christmas as Santa brought me not one but two books imported all the way from America, and to note not via a certain evil website, both of which were by book jacket designer extraordinaire Peter Mendelsund. I was told about both Cover  and What We See When We Read by many, many people (indeed the later was in the Yankee book swap but I wasn’t mean enough to swap it for Gone Girl) when I was at Booktopia Asheville, indeed Ann and Michael have sung their praises on Books on the Nightstand. Having read Cover I can completely understand why; it is such a wonderful ode to books and a book which safe to say will be riding very high on my books of the year tomorrow.

powerHouse Books, 2014, hardback, nonfiction, 256 pages, brought by Santa for Christmas

Peter Mendelsund was initially a classical pianist, or a recovering one as his bio says, who after the birth of his first child realised he needed a more stable job with a regular income. But what? Well, as it happened he liked design and then his mother knew someone who knew someone at Knopf Books and after a chat, a viewing of his portfolio (which Knopf being pretty bowled over by what Mendelsund calls “shockingly wince-inducing” self taught designs) and some interviews he then became a junior designer. Now he is Associate Art Director there and his book covers are world famous, though you might admittedly not know they were by him. He is one of those wonderful people who make us want to pick up ALL the books, from Lolita to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo literally. Well, if you live in America, though some have come here too. Cover is his story of how he came to cover books and what doing so means.

During those years at the piano, I was completely unaware that book cover design, as they say, “was a thing.” Though I’d read plenty of books over this period, it had not occurred to me that a book’s cover was consciously composed and assembled by a human agent. Not that I assumed book jackets were made by machines, or committees (it turns out they can be made by either), I had simply never given book jackets a passing thought.

What did I see then when looking at the front of the book if not the cover? The title and the author’s name. Which is to say, I saw past the cover to the book.

However Cover is not just Mendelsund’s thoughts on what makes a book cover so important. As we go through the sections Classics, Vertical (which is all about Manga), Literary Fiction, Genre Fiction and Non Fiction & Poetry we hear from the writers who Mendelsund has made covers for, well apart from in Classics then Jane Mendelsohn discusses Kafka whose reissues were one of the first works that made everyone really sit up and pay attention to Mendelsund’s work. (No I am not popping pictures of those in, you will have to go and buy the book to see them, and they are stunning.) Here is Ben Marcus discussing the importance of the cover for the author and what the power of a cover can do…

The missing jacket is the final piece to by which nearly everyone will come to know the book. The writer wants the jacket to stand up for the book, serve as the most perfect flag. The jacket should celebrate the strengths of the book and conceal the flaws. It should perhaps rouse dormant chemicals in the body of and cause a sharp kind of lust in the buyer, that might only be satisfied by actually eating the book.

Of course it is Mendelsund and his work, and the process of it, that links this book. Throughout you really get a fantastic insight into how the idea’s for covers are initially formed and then how the process carries on. I don’t want to spoil any of this for you but I thought I would give you a sneaky peak, for example here is the final design for Steig Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (which Mendelsund jokes, in one of his many brilliant footnotes on some of his designs, thankfully lost the title of The Man Who Hated Women which he had to have as one of his design’s titles) the he created…

IMG_7317

Here are many of the ones that didn’t make the cut, these are marked throughout with red X’s…

IMG_7318

You therefore get the mental process and the design process which I found completely fascinating, as I am sure any book lover would. And this is a book for book lovers. Did I mention that? I have come away with an epic list of books; obviously Mendelsund reads all these books and was an avid reader and book lover before, and I have now an urge to read many he has covered and clearly loved. (He even almost convinced me about Kafka at one point!) I am particularly keen to read Lolita as Mendelsund has some interesting thoughts on it. I know, I know I should have read it already. Also added to the list are now in particular Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar, which Mendlesund has a fascinating relationship with, and these two books by Imre Kertesz. I don’t care what they are about (Mendelsund has done his job as he does) I just want to read them for their covers…

IMG_7315

On top of these are The Woman Destroyed by Simone De Beauvoir, the aforementioned Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Something is Out There by Richard Bausch, Things We Didn’t See Coming by Steven Amsterdam, Sorry Please Thank You by Charles Yu and both Never Fuck Up and Easy Money by Jens Lapidus. (You can find these again on my new To Get My Mitts On page here with some others.) Oh and the whole of the Pantheon Folktales and Fairytale Library. Though I couldn’t work out if these had been commissioned or not. I will do some digging; if they have they will be mine.

IMG_7320

You might have possibly had the merest hint that I bloody loved Cover. It was a book I thought I would dip in and out of over time, I sat with it and lost several sittings perusing the covers, taking in peoples thoughts on reading and books – it is rather like a book version of having a relaxed mooch through a book shop perusing the covers and eavesdropping on the other book lovers, no higher praise can be bestowed really. As I mentioned before Cover will easily be in my best books of the year and I am now very excited to read What We See When We Read, though I think I might just spend some more time revisiting and staring at Mendelsund’s collection of books and their covers, again and again and again.

Oh and if you want to hear more about book covers then do listen to this edition of Front Row, which I had the joy of whilst getting home in a snow blizzard (I exaggerate not) on Boxing Day on the way home from my mothers. Have you had the joy of reading either of Mendelsund’s books? Do you own some of his covered books in your collection? Which other wonderful books about books would you recommend? I have a new fancy for a selection of my new shelves (yes I have been shopping for more today) being dedicated to books about books of all shapes and sizes.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Books About Books, Books of 2014, Peter Mendelsund, powerHouse Books, Review

Another Night With Novella’s

Just under a month ago I had the pleasure of a Saturday night on my own and spent it with some novella’s. Guess what? I am having another one tonight! Though some could see this as being a bit of a sad fact at 28 I would strongly disagree. This is in fact an ideal night for me when I can devote some serious time to some shorter fiction between Book Group reads, Green Carnation Longlisted books and some classics that I have planned ahead. So tonight I raided the shelves and have a host of shorter books to read…

  • 84 Charng Cross Road by Helene Hanff
  • A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
  • The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khandra
  • Ready To Catch Him Should He Fall by Neil Bartlett
  • Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote
  • The Magician by W. Somerset Maugham
  • Peace by Richard Bausch
  • Strangers by Antonia White
  • Strange Boy by Paul Magrs

I am going to go and get some tea (possibly a pot full) some biscuits now and then get under the duvet with a few of these delights. I might read one slowly, I might read a good fair few. Either way its going to be a treat of an evening. Let me know if you have read any or can think of any great novellas for future nights like these… I might make this a monthly event at Savidge Reads HQ! I honestly think this is a craze which could catch on.

12 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts

Simon’s Bookish Bits #26

I realised yesterday that I hadn’t done a bookish bits for ages and today seemed the perfect time to do one as everything seems to have had a major wobble and jolt in my reading. Interestingly its not that I am having a reading slump but more that I have too much at the moment that I want to read and can’t seem to get through. Do you ever find yourself in that very position?

In part its all down to yesterday’s news and ‘The Green Carnation Prize’, already some books have started arriving and with all the submissions arriving I am more that aware there are some books that I really want to get through before we start whittling down to a longlist between this coming Friday and the 1st of September. My current mini TBR pile on the bedside table is as follows;

  • Couples by John Updike (for Book Group, I have only just started so am thankful for taking a week of next week as its rather long. I need to have a think about Book Group though as dependent on the next titles and their length will I have time in the forthcoming months?)
  • The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle (with the new BBC modern take on ‘Sherlock’ which is actually very, very good I of course want to read one of Sherlock’s original adventures)
  • Peace by Richard Bausch (I have heard rave reviews about this here there and everywhere and I haven’t read a fictional book about the actual war rather than the time period for a while)
  • Room by Emma Donoghue (I know it’s the book everyone is going to be reviewing but I don’t care as its one I am desperate to read regardless)
  • The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie (I have an urge for Marple at the moment and I always believe you should follow any urge to read a Christie)
  • Heartburn by Norah Ephron (some swine has ordered my copy so have to get this back to the library very soon)

The good thing is that four of them are fairly short and I do believe that going forward, between all the reading I am doing for ‘The Green Carnation Prize’ in forthcoming weeks, short books are the ones that will be featuring more and more on Savidge Reads. Especially since all submissions are made on a confidential basis and the judges have all agreed not to mention our thoughts on the longlisted books as we read them on our blogs, though we can mention them after the winner is announced on World Aids Day. The good news is that with all the reading I will be doing for this I will have masses of posts to schedule for here while I am in Brazil.

It has meant I have had to stop ‘The Slap’  midway through which was quite an effort for me as I thought it was shaping up nicely. But , though it hasn’t been yet, I am hoping it gets submitted… I shall say no more than that.

I have decided to give myself a bit of time off and so will be scheduling some posts for the week ahead today before heading off to the new Jimmy Spices in London (again, I went of Friday but its possibly my favourite place on earth) and having an evening of no books. Then, having booked a week off, its down to some earnest reading and a little more silence from me than usual on comments both here and around the blogosphere whilst I get my pre-judging reading sorted. So do bear with me.

So how is all your reading going? I have seen some slumps here or there in the blogosphere are occurring, do you have any advice for any of those bloggers? What are the top five books you have your sights on for reading in the very near future? Do you have any other bookish plans or news to share?

10 Comments

Filed under Simon's Bookish Bits