Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

suzene ang, winner, book cover design contest #3

Monday, May 31st, 2010

We are pleased to announce the winner of Book Cover Design Contest #3 [The Eel by Eugenio Montale]. Congratulations to Suzene Ang of Singapore for her lovely, lyrical cover.


Suzene has participated in all three contests so far, producing the wonderful and clever design for Lolita which was a favorite of Vintage Books creative director John Gall. Suzene’s entry for The Name of the Rose was also a strong contender.


Suzene Ang










Two other covers we like for this contest were from Ryan Igarashi and Marija Despotovic, both of whom have participated in past contests as well.

 ryan_igarashiMarija Despotovic 1










We hope everyone continues to participate!

the name of the rose winner!

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

After what seems like ages, we are thrilled to announce the winner of The Name of the Rose Book Cover Contest. Turnout was remarkable, and we most sincerely thank all of those who participated and whose designs made this contest such a pleasure! In all there were 254 entries from 50 countries. Poland topped the list with 35 submissions followed by the US with 30 and the UK with 25. You can see the breakdown here.

 The fact that the overall quality of the covers was so high made judging extremely difficult to say the least, and so we must again stress that there is a degree of arbitrariness inherent in selecting a single winner from among so many excellent submissions. The diversity was extraordinary, and it was wonderful to see such a wealth of ideas expressed so brilliantly. If it were possible, we would have awarded a half-dozen or more first prizes. As it was, it was an excruciating process wherein we first selected our top fifty choices, which we then painstakingly narrowed down to fifteen, then five, and finally, to one.

Razvan MitoiuSo without further ado, we’d like to congratulate our winner, Razvan Mitoiu of Ploiesti, Romania for his stunningly evocative cover! Communicating an almost overpowering dark primitivism, it succeeds because it is suggestive of so many things: ritual, mystery, violence. The dark dripping fluid (blood, poison, ink, wax?) is a wonderful Rorschach image: is it an occult, pagan, or alchemical symbol; the beginning letters of an interrupted word; a crucifix; or a purely accidental spill with no meaning whatsoever? The torn page, the faded text with the English words January and February clearly visible and repeated, the text that appears to be written by hand but on closer inspection is not; all of these little mysteries compound the sense of general unease. In short, we loved it and feel that it well represents the themes present in Eco’s remarkable novel.

We will be highlighting some of our favorites over the next few day, but in the meantime you can see all of the entries here.

nabokov online journal, yuri leving, ed.

Friday, March 19th, 2010

nojWe’ve just added to our links section the wonderful (and bilingual!)  Nabokov Online Journal , edited by Yuri Leving, Chair of the Department of Russian Studies at Dalhousie University. Aside from the fascinating scholarship, of course (I am  currently reading Lolita Is Dolores Haze: The Real Child and the Real Body in Lolita by Anika Susan Quayle) one can enjoy the added bonus of a fantastic interactive splash page designed by Andrey Bashkin, a designer of great and quirky talent who is also the designer of the delerious and delicious My Web Alice which is a must visit. Enjoy!

book cover design contest #3, l’anguilla (the eel), eugenio montale

Monday, March 1st, 2010

montale galassiFor our third contest we embraced having as our subject a play or a poem and considered, among others, T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland and Seamus Heaney’s forthcoming collection Human Chain . Fortuitously, I was recently introduced to the work of Italian poet Eugenio Montale, winner of the 1975 Nobel Prize for Literature and a contemporary of  T.S. Eliot. Montale, who died in 1981,  published hundreds of poems, but we have chosen one of a mere thirty lines, the acclaimed L’anguilla, from his 1956 collection La bufera e altro. We prefer Jonathan Galassi’s sublime translation, whose volume of Montale’s collected poems was awarded the Premio Montale and the 1999 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize:

The Eel

The eel, siren

of cold seas, who leaves

the Baltic for our seas,

our estuaries, rivers, rising

deep beneath the downstream flood

from branch to branch, from twig to smaller twig,

ever more inward,

bent on the heart of rock,

infiltrating muddy

rills until one day

light glancing off the chestnuts

fires her flash

in stagnant pools,

in the ravines cascading down

the Apennine escarpments to Romagna;

eel, torch, whiplash,

arrow of Love on earth,

whom only our gullies

or dessicated Pyrenean brooks lead back

to Edens of generation;

green spirit seeking life

where only drought and desolation sting;

spark that says that everything begins

when everything seems charcoal,

buried stump;

brief rainbow, iris,

twin to the one your lashes frame

and you set shining virginal among

the sons of men, sunk in your mire—

can you fail to see her as a sister?

Contest rules may be found here: THE EEL BOOK COVER CONTEST

A copy of the poem in Italian along with Galassi’s English translation may be found here: The Eel

There is a wonderful link to Montale’s acceptance speech along with other documents related to his winning of the 1975 Nobel Prize for Literature here.

the name of the rose, umberto eco

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

finalOur book cover design contest ends Friday, February 26th!

Details here

ian everard

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

pic00004I came across the artist Ian Everard whose work, while on the surface perhaps only peripherally related to interests of this blog, really resonated with me.  A painter of found objects, he has created a series of works based upon what might be called “low-brow” book covers, which he reproduces with an extraordinary, almost forensic care so that each dogear, crease and tear of the “original”  is faithfully recreated like the bones of a saint in a replica reliquary.

Everard writes: “It seems to go without saying that no image can be taken at face value, but the process of meticulous copying reveals many layers of unforeseen meaning. Some of my choices, pulp romance novels for instance, might seem to be in bad taste. It is not my aim to satirize bad taste but, rather, to question what it is these artifacts, impeccably designed in their way, truly represent.”

You can view his portfolio here.

what christmas is as we grow older, charles dickens, 1851

Friday, December 18th, 2009


 ime was, with most of us, when Christmas Day encircling all our mited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and every one around the Christmas fire; and made the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete.

Time came, perhaps, all so soon, when our thoughts over-leaped that narrow boundary; when there was some one (very dear, we thought then, very beautiful, and absolutely perfect) wanting to the fulness of our happiness; when we were wanting too (or we thought so, which did just as well) at the Christmas hearth by which that some one sat; and when we intertwined with every wreath and garland of our life that some one’s name.

That was the time for the bright visionary Christmases which have long arisen from us to show faintly, after summer rain, in the palest edges of the rainbow! That was the time for the beatified enjoyment of the things that were to be, and never were, and yet the things that were so real in our resolute hope that it would be hard to say, now, what realities achieved since, have been stronger!

What! Did that Christmas never really come when we and the priceless pearl who was our young choice were received, after the happiest of totally impossible marriages, by the two united families previously at daggers–drawn on our account? When brothers and sisters-in-law who had always been rather cool to us before our relationship was effected, perfectly doted on us, and when fathers and mothers overwhelmed us with unlimited incomes? Was that Christmas dinner never really eaten, after which we arose, and generously and eloquently rendered honour to our late rival, present in the company, then and there exchanging friendship and forgiveness, and founding an attachment, not to be surpassed in Greek or Roman story, which subsisted until death? Has that same rival long ceased to care for that same priceless pearl, and married for money, and become usurious? Above all, do we really know, now,
that we should probably have been miserable if we had won and worn the pearl, and that we are better without her?

That Christmas when we had recently achieved so much fame; when we had been carried in triumph somewhere, for doing something great and good; when we had won an honoured and ennobled name, and arrived and were received at home in a shower of tears of joy; is it possible that THAT Christmas has not come yet?

And is our life here, at the best, so constituted that, pausing as we advance at such a noticeable mile-stone in the track as this great birthday, we look back on the things that never were, as naturally and full as gravely as on the things that have been and are gone, or have been and still are? If it be so, and so it seems to be, must we come to the conclusion that life is little better than a dream, and little worth the loves and strivings that we crowd into it?

No! Far be such miscalled philosophy from us, dear Reader, on Christmas Day! Nearer and closer to our hearts be the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness and forbearance! It is in the last virtues especially, that we are, or should be, strengthened by the unaccomplished visions of our youth; for, who shall say that they are not our teachers to deal gently even with the impalpable nothings of the earth!

Therefore, as we grow older, let us be more thankful that the circle of our Christmas associations and of the lessons that they bring, expands! Let us welcome every one of them, and summon them to take their places by the Christmas hearth.

Welcome, old aspirations, glittering creatures of an ardent fancy, to your shelter underneath the holly! We know you, and have not outlived you yet. Welcome, old projects and old loves, however fleeting, to your nooks among the steadier lights that burn around us. Welcome, all that was ever real to our hearts; and for the earnestness that made you real, thanks to Heaven! Do we build no Christmas castles in the clouds now? Let our thoughts, fluttering like butterflies among these flowers of children, bear witness! Before this boy, there stretches out a Future, brighter than we ever looked on in our old romantic time, but bright with honour and with truth. Around this little head on which the sunny curls lie heaped, the graces sport, as prettily, as airily, as when there was no scythe within the reach of Time to shear away the curls of our first-love. Upon another girl’s face near it–placider but smiling bright–a quiet and contented little face, we see Home fairly written. Shining from the word, as rays shine from a star, we see how, when our graves are old, other hopes than ours are young, other hearts than ours are moved; how other ways are smoothed; how other happiness blooms, ripens, and decays–no, not decays, for other homes and other bands of children, not yet in being nor for ages yet to be, arise, and bloom and ripen to the end of all!

Welcome, everything! Welcome, alike what has been, and what never was, and what we hope may be, to your shelter underneath the holly, to your places round the Christmas fire, where what is sits open-hearted! In yonder shadow, do we see obtruding furtively upon the blaze, an enemy’s face? By Christmas Day we do forgive him! If the injury he has done us may admit of such companionship, let him come here and take his place. If otherwise, unhappily, let him go hence, assured that we will never injure nor accuse him.

On this day we shut out Nothing!

“Pause,” says a low voice. “Nothing? Think!”

“On Christmas Day, we will shut out from our fireside, Nothing.”

“Not the shadow of a vast City where the withered leaves are lying deep?” the voice replies. “Not the shadow that darkens the whole globe? Not the shadow of the City of the Dead?”

Not even that. Of all days in the year, we will turn our faces towards that City upon Christmas Day, and from its silent hosts bring those we loved, among us. City of the Dead, in the blessed name wherein we are gathered together at this time, and in the Presence that is here among us according to the promise, we will receive, and not dismiss, thy people who are dear to us!

Yes. We can look upon these children angels that alight, so solemnly, so beautifully among the living children by the fire, and can bear to think how they departed from us. Entertaining angels unawares, as the Patriarchs did, the playful children are unconscious of their guests; but we can see them–can see a radiant arm around one favourite neck, as if there were a tempting of that child away. Among the celestial figures there is one, a poor misshapen boy on earth, of a glorious beauty now, of whom his dying mother said it grieved her much to leave him here, alone, for so many years as it was likely would elapse before he came to her– being such a little child. But he went quickly, and was laid upon her breast, and in her hand she leads him.

There was a gallant boy, who fell, far away, upon a burning sand beneath a burning sun, and said, “Tell them at home, with my last love, how much I could have wished to kiss them once, but that I died contented and had done my duty!” Or there was another, over whom they read the words, “Therefore we commit his body to the deep,” and so consigned him to the lonely ocean and sailed on. Or there was another, who lay down to his rest in the dark shadow of great forests, and, on earth, awoke no more. O shall they not, from sand and sea and forest, be brought home at such a time!

There was a dear girl–almost a woman–never to be one–who made a mourning Christmas in a house of joy, and went her trackless way to the silent City. Do we recollect her, worn out, faintly whispering what could not be heard, and falling into that last sleep for weariness? O look upon her now! O look upon her beauty, her serenity, her changeless youth, her happiness! The daughter of Jairus was recalled to life, to die; but she, more blest, has heard the same voice, saying unto her, “Arise for ever!”

We had a friend who was our friend from early days, with whom we often pictured the changes that were to come upon our lives, and merrily imagined how we would speak, and walk, and think, and talk, when we came to be old. His destined habitation in the City of the Dead received him in his prime. Shall he be shut out from our Christmas remembrance? Would his love have so excluded us? Lost friend, lost child, lost parent, sister, brother, husband, wife, we will not so discard you! You shall hold your cherished places in our Christmas hearts, and by our Christmas fires; and in the season of immortal hope, and on the birthday of immortal mercy, we will shut out Nothing!

The winter sun goes down over town and village; on the sea it makes a rosy path, as if the Sacred tread were fresh upon the water. A few more moments, and it sinks, and night comes on, and lights begin to sparkle in the prospect. On the hill-side beyond the shapelessly-diffused town, and in the quiet keeping of the trees that gird the village-steeple, remembrances are cut in stone, planted in common flowers, growing in grass, entwined with lowly brambles around many a mound of earth. In town and village, there are doors and windows closed against the weather, there are flaming logs heaped high, there are joyful faces, there is healthy music of voices. Be all ungentleness and harm excluded from the temples of the Household Gods, but be those remembrances admitted with tender encouragement! They are of the time and all its comforting and peaceful reassurances; and of the history that re-united even upon earth the living and the dead; and of the broad beneficence and goodness that too many men have tried to tear to narrow shreds.

book cover design contest #2: the name of the rose

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Eco_Il_nome_della_rosa 1We’re starting a new book cover contest.

After deliberations that included among others Joyce’s Ulysses, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Eliot’s The Wasteland, Bataille’s The Story of the Eye and of course Nabokov’s The Original of Laura, we chose semiotician Umberto Eco’s 1980 postmodern novel The Name of the Rose. Hopefully this will prove rich soil for some wonderful and interesting covers. We received 155 submissions for our Lolita cover contest and we’re hoping to double that number so help get the word out. This time there will be only one submission per entrant.

The prize will be $1000 US.

The deadline is Friday, February 26, 2010.

You can find all of the rules here.

the nabokov collection, john gall

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

the eye john gallAlways great to hear from book designer John Gall, especially when it pertains to Nabokov. Here he’s enlisted a bunch of colleagues to create “book covers” of VN’s works using specimen boxes. And pretty interesting specimens these are. No Lolita, although it’s probably just as well (two more are also missing).

Link here.

parallel botany, leo lionni

Friday, October 30th, 2009

parallel botanyAs sly as any work by Nabokov, Leo Lionni’s Parallel Botany from 1977 is a fantastic  exploration of “parallel plants” the study of which T.J. Nelson, in his review of the book, states “has often been under appreciated and ignored by other biologists, almost, one might say, a backwater in which progress has been slow and difficult. There are, of course, many reasons for this; but chiefly, the principal difficulty with studying parallel plants is their lack of a basic property possessed by the vast majority of other, non-parallel plants, namely the property of `existence.”

In the General Introduction we find this:

These organisms,” writes Franco Russoli, “whose physical being is sometimes flabby and sometimes porous, at other times osseous but fragile, breaking open to display huge colonies of seeds or bulbs which grow and ferment in the blind hope of some vital metamorphosis, that seem to struggle against a soft but impenetrable skin – these abnormal creatures with pointed or horny protuberances, or petticoats, skirts and fringes of fibrils and pistils, articulations that are sometimes mucous and sometimes cartilaginous, might well belong to one of the great families of jungle flora, ambiguous, savage, and fascinating in their monstrous way. But they do not belong to any species in nature, nor would the most expert grafting ever succeed in bringing them into existence.”

And off we go into this rollicking adventure of a book which is as much an anthropological study of primitive cultures and their mythologies as a biological treatise; The Golden Bough, The Power of Myth and Species Plantarum all rolled into one.