Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pretty little things...

... is how Russian author Vladimir Nabokov referred to paperbacks. Unlike other authors he wanted to be involved in their cover design.

One day in 1963 Vladimir Nabokov received from his British publisher a paperback copy of Laughter in the Dark with a request to sign it for Penguin's founder, Allen Lane. Nabokov was known not to sign books and, in this instance, was also annoyed by the cover art for the book. He sent a letter recording his displeasure. This was not the first time Nabokov had found the artwork for his paperbacks “pretty bad and insulting.” Earlier a Penguin cover art for Nabokov's Dozen had upset him: a sketch of a professorial-looking man chasing a butterfly with a net. Unlike many serious literary authors of his time, Nabokov liked paperbacks. He wanted to be involved in their cover art and design. In a survey sent out to many writers asking what they felt about paperbacks, Nabokov telegrammed three words: ‘Pretty little things'.

Slender monograph
Paperback Nabokov by Paul Maliszewski is a pretty little thing in itself. I nearly missed spotting it on the bookstore shelf: a slender 20-page monograph published by McSweeneys that could easily disappear between rows of books. Maliszewski (the author also of Fakers: Hoaxers, Con Artists, Counterfeiters, and Other Great Pretenders, which examines “literary and journalistic deception”) explores the world of Nabokov paperbacks: details N's feelings towards the cover art for several editions, his son Dmitri's role as illustrator, the artist that finally satisfied N with his artwork, and a few choice letters from N on paperback design and cover art. The bonus is right in the middle of the monograph: four pages of full-colour photographs of at least 43 various paperback editions and their cover art.

Full report here Hindu

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