Thursday, September 3, 2015

Just a Bit of Site-Seeing

• I’ve seen the signature “J. Oval” many times while looking through vintage paperback illustrations, and I included three examples of his cover paintings (for Rona Jaffe’s Away from Home, Gerald Green’s The Lotus Eaters, and Glendon Swarthout’s Where the Boys Are) in my gallery of summer-themed works. But I knew nothing about the artist himself until Pulp International cobbled together this gallery of work he did for UK publisher Pan Books. “Illustrator J. Oval was a Brit named Ben Ostrick,” the blog explains, “who painted under both his pseudonym and real name. His crisp illustrations helped make Pan Books, which debuted in 1944, one of the most eye-catching mid-century imprints.” I especially like Ostrick/Oval’s fronts for Algerian Adventure, Fuel for the Flame, and Pauline. In addition to his book-cover paintings, Ostrick worked as a commercial artist, creating images such as this one for British Railways.

• British comics historian Steve Holland has assembled--for his blog, Bear Alley--what he calls “the skeleton for a gallery dedicated to British gangster writer James Hadley Chase.” There are plenty of covers already, but it sounds as if Holland intends to add more as his time allows. So check Bear Alley once in a while to see what’s new.

• Speaking of James Hadley Chase, one of his novels finds a place among Flashbak’s set of “13 Regrettable Book Titles.”

• Author Martin Edwards alerts me to the recent publication, in Britain, of Tom Adams Uncovered: The Art of Agatha Christie and Beyond (HarperCollins). You may already know that Tom Adams, born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1926, painted the fronts for many Christie paperbacks, as well as Ballantine’s 1971 line of Raymond Chandler reprints. As Amazon notes, “Tom Adams Uncovered is a showcase of the artist’s best work from a career spanning more than 50 years. In addition to his many cover paintings, it features examples of Tom’s broader work, including award-winning advertising, portraits, album covers, poster prints, and his work on the films 2001, Flash Gordon, and Lifeforce. With captions by Tom and a commentary by the Agatha Christie historian John Curran, and concluding with previously unpublished Agatha Christie paintings, this book is a treasure trove for both crime fans and art lovers, and a fitting celebration of one of the world’s finest cover artists.” It sounds like something I’d be pleased to find under my Christmas tree in a few months. Hint, hint …

Quentin Tarantino films, as Penguin-style paperbacks.

• This month, UK-based Pushkin Press launches a new imprint, Vertigo, under which it will reprint “crime classics from 1920 to 1970.” In the blog Creative Review, designer Jamie Keenan “explains the thinking behind the bold typographic direction” he’s taken with Vertigo’s book covers. As Dan Wagstaff observes in The Casual Optimist, “They make for a stunning set.” I’m hoping to get my own hands on some of these releases.

An uncredited but terrific front for Thomas Pynchon’s V.

• Designer Mark Swan recalls the process he went through to create covers for British editions of Walter Mosley’s most recent Easy Rawlins novels, in a piece for Orion Books’ blog, The Murder Room.

• Book publishing’s latest cover-design trend: the flat woman.

Hardcover editions of early hard-boiled crime novels.

• If only it were possible to add these “subtle GIFs” to “iconic book covers” and sell the resulting editions in stores …

• I bought David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest shortly after its hardback debut in 1996, based solely on an Esquire magazine write-up, the author of which admitted that he hadn’t yet managed to get through all 1,079 pages of the book, but was enjoying the reading experience. After reading all 981 pages of Wallace’s story myself (minus the final 100 pages of “Notes and Errata” at the end), I can’t say I was as pleased to have tackled this magnum opus, but it appears that I am in the minority. January Magazine notes that Infinite Jest is the late Mr. Wallace’s “most famous work,” and that to celebrate the upcoming 20th anniversary of its initial release, publisher Little, Brown has organized a contest to freshen up the book’s cover. Designers and artists are invited to submit their own concepts for Infinite Jest’s façade by September 15, and there’s even a $1,000 prize (in the former of an American Express gift card) waiting for the winner. More details of the contest are here.

Wow, 228 covers for Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita! There’s a novel that has certainly inspired designers over the decades.

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