In Praise of Persephone Books

The Dastardly Past: In Praise of Persephone Books.

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There is little of a dastardly nature is today’s post, mostly because I have been sick and not doing much research.  Instead, I’d like to praise Persephone Books of London.  If you are unfamiliar with them, rejoice in the lacunae about to be filled in your life and library.  Persephone specializes in reprinting neglected twentieth-century books, mostly by women writers.  They produce visually and tactilely pleasing volumes at reasonable prices.  If you enjoyed the film adaptation of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, for example, you’ll be delighted with the novel on which it was based, by Winifred Watson.  In addition to humor, Persephone’s list encompasses a wide variety of categories, fiction and non-fiction, basically something for everyone.  I cannot praise them too highly, but I leave it to you to discover them for yourself.  You will not be disappointed.

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Judging Bond by His Book Cover

The Dastardly Past:  Judging Bond by His Book Cover.

On the 5th of April 1954, publisher Jonathan Cape releases Ian Fleming’s novel Live and Let Die, another action-packed adventure involving the suave and ruthless James Bond.  Yet the publisher chooses to package the world’s most interesting secret agent in the world’s most boring book cover.

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That brings us to something they rarely tell aspiring authors:  they can sweat blood for years to produce a masterpiece, yet they don’t get a say in the book’s design.  The dust jacket will be selected as agenda item #6.1b in a publisher’s production meeting based, not on the book’s content, but on the fact that Randy is on his honeymoon and Gwen has the ‘flu.  So that leaves Dave who has only ever designed covers for college textbooks.  But they decide to give Dave a break and he comes up with something like this, suggesting Bond does his gambling on riverboats rather than the Riviera.  Poor Ian Fleming.

 

Over time the book covers for Live and Let Die improve gradually.  But, frankly, it looks like they only got serious about a clean, cool design in recent years, 60+ years after James Bond has become a proven cultural icon.  I’ll let the picture speak for themselves, though.

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