Peter Mendelsund on jacketing fiction

The first part of an essay by book jacket designer Peter Mendelsund on his blog Jacket Mechanical covering just what it is his job involves. And he starts with a bang, as it were, questioning some of cover designs for Nabokov’s Lolita because:

“It is easy to forget, especially easy given the soft-core Lolita renderings (book jackets, film adaptations…) one sees down the years. Nabokov’s is a tale of perversion—unequal partnership, corrupted youth, and non-consensuality. Lolita is, for sure, a tragicomedy, and there are elements of the glib, the sensual, and the pure slapstick in it—but these days we tend to overemphasize these easy aspects of the tale and its telling.”

He goes on to show a number of covers, wondering whether the first edition “brown paper wrapper gambit” wasn’t the best cover for the book.

Mendelsund designed the book jackets for a recent edition of Kafka’s work and spoke earlier this year on literalab about the Czech authors and composers he would love to design covers for, as well as the qualities of Czech book jacket design he finds so appealing and his cover for the new translation of Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago.

Update: The second installment of Peter Mendelsund’s series of essays on jacketing fiction is up, in which he asks whether designers “are, or should be, in the business of representing the underlying themes put forward by the works of fiction that we are charged with making jackets for.”

Photos – 1) Proposed cover for Lolita by Emmanuel Polanco, 2) Japanese cover for Lolita, PS. probably not a good idea to click on the link and buy the book unless you speak (read) Japanese (though it is a great cover, IMO).

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Categories: Book Jacket Design

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