Under the Covers (HP part 2)

hp bloomsbury cover 1So I wasn’t planning on writing a blog post today, but then I stumbled upon yesterday’s Guardian article about Bloomsbury’s new Harry Potter covers, designed by Jonny Duddle. It seems like only yesterday that they redesigned them – maybe the radical modernisation of acid green and fuscia pink covers didn’t do much for sales figures and they thought they should retrace their steps.

There are things I like and things I don’t like about this. On the one hand, I like the original style best. I like the reproduction of scenes from the book. I like how they bring the book to life with magic and colour, and I appreciate the fact that they stimulate the imagination of young readers – the original audience of the Harry Potter books. That is to say, I like it when it’s done well, and I’m not entirely sure that these covers fit the bill. Especially when paired along with the Scholastic US covers. I’ve already written at length on these covers, but here’s an example if you haven’t read it:

new_cover2This isn’t the best example, but Google them and have a look. There’s something about them that couples imagination and magic with the more mature voice that Harry adopts as the story progresses. Really wonderful stuff!

I can’t help but think that the new Bloomsbury covers are a bit bleh (technical term). Harry looks like a child in these covers – even the later ones where he’s a bit older and wiser.

hp bloomsbury cover 4Look at his wee face! That isn’t the Harry that I’ve come to know and love, sorry Bloomsbury. Even though I didn’t particularly like the neon covers that were just recently published, I still admire the bravery of taking such a different approach, and I like that there’s something different out there for new, older readers. With these books, I feel like Bloomsbury are just returning to an old formula but some ingredients are missing or muddled.

hp filmOne last thing I’ll say about the covers (maybe ever on this blog, as I think we’re getting a bit HP heavy…) is that I like how we haven’t just been punted books with film stills on the cover. At least, I haven’t seen any. If they exist, please let me know in the comments! I think it’s pretty great that the publishers are so innovative with the HP covers, still designing and creating and imagining. So let me just finish by saying that, although I don’t love the new Bloomsbury covers, I still appreciate the effort. Thanks Bloomsbury and Scholastic for being brilliant!

(I’m honestly not obsessed with Harry Potter, just appreciate a good bit of book cover art!)

 

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Ciao!

So, you haven’t heard from me (Robbie) in a while, because I’ve been on holiday, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t seeking out interesting gobbets of information to feed you with, one of which to follow. I’ve also got reviews up my sleeve for a whole plethora of books, including Evie Wyld’s debut novel, Judith Schalansky’s The Giraffe’s Neck, and the 1180 page epic tome by Michael Schmidt, The Novel, A Biography (I admit, I haven’t read it all yet, but I will make that clear) and many others that I can’t bring to mind at this moment. For now, though, let me tell you about an Italian publisher who is doing something rather special.

Beautiful sea urchin

There are a lot of sea urchins in Italy (I think this is a different species, however)

Whilst I was on my version of the Italian Grand Tour (going to as few places as possible, and only if they are very quiet) I came across a bookshop, and being of a mothlike bookish persuasion I was drawn inescapably in, even though I struggle to find enough Italian to ask for a glass of white wine. Inside I saw a lot of books, some of which I liked the look of and some that I didn’t, but one particular imprint caught my eye for three reasons: they were brightly-coloured enough for my sun befuddled eyes to be able to see them clearly, they were by ‘canonical’ authors I could recognise easily, and they were cheap. Seriously cheap, and for reasons I will go into in the following paragraph-but-one I will tell you why this is praiseworthy, and why it should be held up as an example to the publishers of so-called classic literature in this country. But before I do that I should give you a picture of one of these books, because so far all I’ve given you is a sea urchin, and tell you a bit about the publisher (I only know a bit).

Dante's Divine ComedyNewton Compton Editori may not seem like the most Italian of names (without the helpful Editori, anyway) but it is Italian through and through, having been started by a Vittorio Avanzini in Rome in the 60s. NC is primarily interested in publishing classic fiction, but have recently moved into contemporary translations, which we thoroughly approve of. They produce two forms of Classic – their paperback, which sells at 1.90€ (about £1.50) and a hardback (3.90€ // £3.10). They have only just put up the prices on their paperbacks, so if you fly out quick you can still swipe copies for only 99 cents (like I did).

Oscar Wilde's the Importance of Being ErnestThe reason I feel like this is noteworthy is that these books are not poorly made, are not going to discolour in a week (I’m looking at you, £2 Penguin Popular Classics). I tested my paperback copy of Bulgakov’s Cuore di Cane in Italy by leaving it in the baking sun whilst taking my siesta, holding it in my armpit whilst walking along the sea wall of the port, and it also spent quite some time lightly folded over in the bottom of my bag on the flight home, where it came out looking pretty healthy. What I am alluding to here is that Classic can be cheap (more on this in a moment) and well made, because you will sell hunners of them so they can be printed in bulk, which reduces the cost of production massively. Flaubet's Madame BovaryRight, cost. I have talked about this in passing before, but this gives me the opportunity to have a good rant. For many of the cannonical classics there is no living author, and often no rights either. Thus, if I wanted to, I could typeset, print, bind and sell a copy of Great Expectations tomorrow and wouldn’t have to pay anyone (If I did all the production). So how is it that companies (Cambridge Modern Classics and Penguin Classics being the big players here) can rationalise a £9.99 price tag (going all the way up to around £17 in some cases) for a book where there is no advance or royalty needing covered?

Bulgakov's Master and MargheritaNow of course, occasionally you will change the cover, or order a new translation, or even deign to actually pay an academic to write a forward, but largely these texts haven’t changes for decades. Just imagine the money being taken, and (in my opinion) taken unfairly.

978-88-541-6972-2I would like to hear any defense of the extortionate prices involved for out of copyright text, so if you have one please let me hear it. I have heard it said that a cheap classic will put people off buying modern fiction, but it just doesn’t wash with me, because what is on offer is a completely different experience.

Last week, Freight Books read…

Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky

An Atlas of Remote Islands (and Pocket version, right), by Judith Schalansky and translated by Christine Lo (Particular Books, Penguin).

When I woke up this morning I was worried, because I had no translation to review today. Indeed, I had nothing to review (I’m halfway through three books, which is a situation I hate being in, and other options for review are awaiting a blog post I will be writing tomorrow) whatsoever. Then our extremely cheerful postman arrived with the book on the left, and a feature that I had been planning for next week suddenly became possible. Hey, it is even a translation – perfection is a chance discovery. Continue reading

Under the Covers

In the latest of our series of our most treasured book covers, Robbie Guillory brings you Švejk, the (anti)hero from Czechoslovakia (as was).

cover of The Good Soldier Schweik by Jaroslav HasekThe (sadly unfinished) tale of The Good Soldier Švejk (or Schweik or Swejk, depending on your ability to produce accents) is one of the greatest novels of the First World War in in existence. An exploration of the futility of war and the pointless activities acted out in the name of military discipline, Švejk is an exemplar of passive resistance (or stupidity – the arguments flow back and forth). I will review this at some point. But on to the covers, because we will be looking at variations on a theme. Continue reading

Under the Covers

We’re excited to reveal another new feature on the blog! Under the Covers is a spotlight on our favourite cover(s) of the week.

old magic

This week, I’ve decided to delve into my young adulthood to pick on a book cover that started me on reading in the first place.

The book is Old Magic, by Marianne Curley, and it was originally published by Bloomsbury in 2001.

This cover is from the UK and Australia 2nd edition and is probably my most adored childhood book.

*I really struggled to find out who designed this book cover, and I don’t have the book with me as I’m writing this post (silly). I’ll update this post with the designer when I find out who he/she is.

The first thing that struck me about this cover, and something that I still find wonderful and unique today, is the use of colour, both in the image and the text. The dark rusted blue of the stormy sky contrasts beautifully with the burnt orange of the title, subtly illuminating it without the need to bump up the typesize so it takes up half of the cover. I also like the use of all lower case in the title – it is unassuming and altogether prettier to look at. Continue reading