Monday, 4 May 2015

Text Adventure

The book itself isn't coming out until September, but I'm already looking forward to Michael W. Clune's Gamelife, a memoir of growing up through 1980s computer games. Partly this is because I'm pathetically right in the middle of the target demographic, having spent a ludicrous amount of time in my pre-teenage years typing variations on "LOOK ROOM" and "HIT ORC" into a Vic-20, while it responded "SYNTAX ERROR. READY:" with blithe indifference. Partly this is because Clune's previous memoir, about heroin addiction and academic life, White Out: The Secret Life of Heroin, was excellent. And partly because it has such a witty and clever cover (designer as yet unknown):

White Out's cover was also rather good, if less original:

Text adventures were weirdly compelling despite (because of?) their limitations. I remember the ridiculously difficult Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy game, which killed you at almost every arbitrary choice, and a King Solomon's Mines game that responded to commands it didn't know with "YOU TALKING PIDGIN, BWANA?". I even spent a vast amount of time writing my own text adventures in BASIC, destined to remain unplayed by anyone besides my indulgent father.

Clune's book will surely be more interesting than that last paragraph. It would have to be, really.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Clutching Her Head in a Field

We return from this looooooong break in transmission with another case of a single stock photo proliferating like a weed. Here it is, again and again and again...

I can't attest to the qualities of most of these books, except for Elizabeth Taylor (the amazing writer, not the ludicrously overrated actress) , who is fucking awesome.

I'm 95% certain there's a Willa Cather book out there with this cover too, but I can't track it down.

With any luck, rather more frequent posts will be happening here soon.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Fluorescent Cats

You wait for years for a book cover featuring fluorescent green cats, and then two come along at once:

Penguin Australia, early 2014

Bloodaxe, UK, late 2014
Both make use of the startling 'Radioactive Cats' by Sandy Skoglund, from as long ago as 1980. In fact, it has cropped up on a few other books, in various languages, before..

Skoglund's amazing life-size diorama photos are quite eye-popping.Here are some others, with more to be found here. (Click for biggenification.)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


Here's an inspired approach to creating a limited-edition version of a book. Commendably angry publishers OR Books recently published a collection of noted awful film-maker Ed Wood's pulp short stories, Blood Spatters Quickly.


Among many other notable traits, Wood was also a cross-dresser, particularly obsessed with wearing fluffy pink angora jumpers (or 'sweaters', for the Americans in the audience)--see his early movie Glen or Glenda, which heavily fictionalised his own experiences and in which he played the lead...

..and so it's rather wonderful that the special edition of this book comes with its own fluffy pink jumper.

What are the stories like? Pretty much as you might imagine, only even more mad and padded and inept. As an example, the opener, Scream Your Bloody Head Off, which is accompanied by this entirely apt bit of artwork...

..begins like this:

'She was going to send him to the cemetery. He knew that from the moment he saw her flying at him, that knife gleaming over her head.

'It was bitter cold and the blizzard had been grinding across the land for more than two days and there didn’t appear to be any letting up and Stella, Johnnie’s wife, lay dead on the kitchen floor… right where she had fallen dead from the butcher knife wound in her heart – the night the storm had started.

'Sure, Johnnie had screwed the neighbor broad right through. Stella had been so right about that. But he couldn’t figure why she came charging at him with that foot-long butcher knife. She had flown across the kitchen floor at him screaming her bloody head off… screaming like a wounded eagle. She was screaming as if all the devils of hell, the creatures from the grave, had entered her very being. It was not even her own voice. She had screamed at him before… many times before… but there was never the sound of panic, despair, horror in those tones… if the sounds could even be called tones.

'All he remembered about that moment, except the terrifying utterances that gaping mouth made, was that gleaming butcher knife, raised so high above her head and it was coming in his direction… the high-pitched scream… the gaping mouth… the saliva-dripping tongue and lips… the red… bloodshot red eyes which suddenly seemed to have no eyelids… simply blood-red eyes in dark sockets… never blinking…and that black negligee trailing out behind her like sheer bat wings on a heavy breeze.'

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Penguin Australian Classics

As my country stumbles dickheadedly into the shitbin, a population of bigots and morons led by a government of mendacious and vindictive arseholes, it's nice to have one small positive to note: the design of the Penguin Australian Classics series. This (supposedly ongoing) series of smallish hardbacks have their cover designs printed directly onto the boards.

Designed by Adam Laszczuk, with illustration by Josh Durham, they make use of fields of flat (yet lightly weathered or textured) colour and sharp-edged illustrative elements. Click on each image for much, much bigger versions.

Note that all of these books were already in print from Penguin Australia, some as Penguin Modern Classics: I hope future entries in the series will rescue out-of-print titles from oblivion, as does the sterling Text Classics series.

Broadview Shakespeare

Canadian academic publisher Broadview has a strong line of classics, including a number not available elsewhere. It's just a shame that their books, while usually featuring well-chosen images, have a slightly fusty, clunky style to the designs:

So it was a positive pleasure to come across the redesign of their Shakespeare series. In a style reminiscent of Melville House's Neversink Library (single-colour background, well-chosen silhouettes), they also deploy well-chosen quotes from the plays in nice, big text. The design work is by Michel Vrana (who also did the Thomas Berger covers in this post)..

The choice of silhouettes that that are metaphorical (lion) or even jokey (the pursuing bear) add to the cleverness.