Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Lurid covers 1: classics

click to enlage
To be fair, one of the commenters on William Moulton Marston’s OTHER pastime warns that we shouldn't judge a book by the trashy cover style of its era. Point taken. As examples - found variously on the Web - check out the adjacent pulp versions of a few classics. There may, however, be more to these than meets the eye: the Frankenstein appears to allude to Fuseli's The Nightmare, and the Brave New World to many "expulsion from Eden" paintings; I can't see any justification for the 1984 interpretation, though.

I found the slightly lower-key, but still pulpy, 1960 Signet 1984 at Survival Arts, and some others at the Three Farms culture blog: Arthur Miller's Focus and Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. With such real-world efforts, it seems scarcely necessary for Slate magazine to have commissioned a series of spoof covers, The Pulp Canon. Does anyone know of any other real examples?

To rinse away the pulpy flavour, check out the much-publicised The Art of Penguin Science Fiction site for its showcase of the striking and stylistically varied artwork of Penguin SF over the decades. Some are iconic, such as David Pelham's cover for the 1972 edition of A Clockwork Orange; others are not quite there, such as the John Griffiths The Day of the Triffids cover; I can't decide if the triffids look more like kiwi fruit, testicles or ... whatever the plural is of gömböc. (Ed: "Gömböcok", I'm told).

By the way (see left) the 1984 pulp cover is interesting for a number of reasons: I'm pretty sure the little figure staring into Julia's cleavage is a cameo appearance by Orwell himself. The hairstyle in particular is is pretty distinctive. Does anyone have a larger scan?

Talking of 1984, see George Orwell: An Exhibition from the Collection of Daniel J. Leab for a nice Orwell bibliographic collection. See also: Predictions. I'm still looking (unsuccessfully so far) for a confirming example of the claimed Bennett Correspondence College "Let me be your big brother" ad. (To Anon: yeah, I know Burgess says it existed, and the "Let me be your father" version is verifiable: I'm looking for a primary source of the "big brother" variant).

Addendum: sorry, having seen the efforts at Slate, I couldn't resist.

- Ray


  1. Not being on "that Island off Europe" nor having the euros to fly there and browse Joe Segal Books, I must buy my reading from a junk book shop (Alibris). So, when I get "The hole in the Zero, Babel-1, The fifty minute hour, More than Human, Norstrilia, Space Lords, Ubik, Starship troopers" (for example), they frequently come with their 1960 lurid paperback covers. I guess publishers back then thought the public was gullible, or sex crazed, or both. (of course where would I have gotten the idea to read those books from. hmmm)

  2. This guy, Thomas Allen, makes new scenes out of cutouts from the covers of pulp novels. Really neat stuff.

    [found via a post on The Daily Dish]

  3. Some are very good, Julie. But even I can photoshop better than that.

  4. That's because the knuckleheads are doing it the old fashioned way; with (real) scissors and glue -- which is what makes it work, but it's so last century.