The Academy of British Cover Design held its inaugural awards ceremony last night. The competition was open to any cover produced for a book published between January 1 and December 31 2013 by a designers based in the UK. Here are the winning cover designs in each of the 10 categories:
How is that I’ve not seen Herzog and the Monsters before now? Lesley Barnes‘ lovely 2006 short animated film, made at the Glasgow School of Arts, has just about all you could wish for: “a small boy who steals words, a forest full of monsters and lots of vintage penguin books.”
Writing the Moomins afforded an escape at war’s end. After a quiet start, the series took off in the fifties, bringing welcome financial stability—but the success also represented a kind of detour. Jansson’s ambitions for painting never left her. Now free time was scarce, thanks to an unceasing flow of fan mail, the minutiae of merchandising, processions of visitors, and, until Lars, one of her brothers, took over, the arduous demands of the comic strip. For a while, there was no pleasure to be found in working. Thankfully, social media didn’t exist yet: “I could vomit over Moomintroll,” she wrote. “I shall never again be able to write about those happy idiots who forgive one another and never realize they’re being fooled.”
As with someone like Kafka, it is hard to know how literally to take Jansson’s obstacles. To some degree, her entrapment was avoidable: to be so involved in the products, to answer every letter, seem Moominish ideas—either that or, for a person who so prized being left free and alone, they’re plain masochistic. Were an analogous scenario to occur in the books, the hassles would be washed away by flood, to be followed by a celebratory picnic. As it was, Jansson believed that her nature didn’t give her a choice.
I finally just got around to reading Emily Gould‘s spiralling essay on writing and debt ‘How much my novel cost me‘ over the weekend. It’s an excerpt from the new n+1 book MFA vs NYC edited by Chad Harbach (author of The Art of Fielding), which seems like it could be essential reading for idealistic folks wishing to pursue writing as a career:
IT’S HARD TO WRITE ABOUT BEING BROKE because brokeness is so relative; “broke” people run the gamut from the trust-funded jerk whose drinks you buy because she’s “so broke right now” to the people who sleep outside the bar where she’s whining. But by summer 2012 I was broke, and in debt, and it was no one’s fault but mine. Besides a couple of freelance writing assignments, my only source of income for more than a year had come from teaching yoga, for which I got paid $40 a class. In 2011 I made $7,000.
During that $7,000 year I also routinely read from my work in front of crowds of people, spoke on panels and at colleges, and got hit up for advice by young people who were interested in emulating my career path, whose coffee I usually ended up buying after they made a halfhearted feint toward their tote bag–purses. I felt some weird obligation to them and to anyone else who might be paying attention to pretend that I wasn’t poor. Keeping up appearances, of course, only made me poorer. I’m not sure what the point of admitting all this might be, because I know that anyone who experiences a career peak in his mid-twenties will likely make the same mistakes I did, and it’s not even clear to me that they were all mistakes, unless writing a book is always a mistake, which in some sense it must be.
Interestingly, Robert McCrum touches on the financial difficulties of older authors in an article for this weekend’s The Observer
To writers of my generation, who grew up in the age of Penguin books, vinyl records and the BBC, it’s as if a cultural ecology has been wiped out. For as long as most of us can remember, every would-be writer knew the landscape of the printed word. This Georgian square was home to publishing grandees (now retired). On that high street were the booksellers (now out of business). In those twisting back streets, you could expect to find literary agents working the margins with the injured innocence of pickpockets at a synod. It was a mutually dependent ecosystem.
Publishers were toffs, booksellers trade and printers the artisan champions of liberty. Like the class system, we thought, nothing would change. The most urgent deadline was lunch. How wrong we were. The years 2007-2010 are pivotal: first… came the credit crunch. And it occurred at the very moment that the IT revolution was wrecking the livelihoods of those creative classes – film-makers, musicians and writers of all sorts – who had previously lived on their copyrights.
Gould is self-recriminating. McCrum — a former editor-in-chief at Faber and Faber — is nostalgic for a time I don’t remember (things were always better in the ‘old days’ in publishing circles). For Gould the internet is a double-edged sword — a platform and a distraction — for McCrum it has brought nothing but woe. Both seem to agree, however, that nobody is making any money, “marketing types” are awful (aren’t they though?), and being a writer is not all it’s cracked up to be…
Writers throughout these essays face the shame of privilege and the specter of poverty: They join magazine mastheads to keep from going broke, or they teach to keep from going broke, or else they actually do go broke—they’re broke in Brooklyn and broke in Los Angeles. Eli Evans evokes his years living in a “warehouse on Pico and Fourth” in one perfect image, one of the most remarkable moments in the entire collection: “I once found a baby rattlesnake strangled with electrical wire and tied to a signpost.” This baby rattlesnake, apparently, is what dreams become…
Lili Anolik on the stranger-than-fiction life of Eve Babitz, “an irresistible hybrid of boho intellectual and L.A. party girl”, for Vanity Fair:
Eve Babitz’s claims to fame rest, in large measure, on her claims on the famous. She’s the goddaughter, of course, of one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. Then there’s that photograph of the chess match with Marcel Duchamp, Eve contemplating her next move without so much as a fig leaf for cover. And what about the series of Adams, better known than the original, some of them, to whom she offered her forbidden fruit? Jim Morrison, Steve Martin, Ed Ruscha, J. D. Souther, Stephen Stills, Glenn Frey, Harrison Ford, Warren Zevon, Ahmet Ertegun all took a bite at one time or another.
If that were her whole story, however, Eve wouldn’t be a whole story. She’d be a footnote. A minor figure of glamour in America’s cultural history. A groupie with a provocative pedigree. She’d be Edie Sedgwick, basically: so relentless a companion to celebrity that she became a bit of one herself, the spotlight just naturally spilling over onto her, making her luminous, too. But she’s not. Eve is Edie cut with Gertrude Stein and a little Louise Brooks thrown in.
Why?… Eve could write.
(pictured above: Eve Babitz, chessboard, and Marcel Duchamp, photograph by Julian Wasser, 1963)
Amazon equals Walmart in the use of monitoring technologies to track the minute-by-minute movements and performance of employees and in settings that go beyond the assembly line to include their movement between loading and unloading docks, between packing and unpacking stations, and to and from the miles of shelving at what Amazon calls its “fulfillment centers”—gigantic warehouses where goods ordered by Amazon’s online customers are sent by manufacturers and wholesalers, there to be shelved, packaged, and sent out again to the Amazon customer…
…With Walmart’s and Amazon’s business model, the workplace practices that raise employee productivity to very high levels also keep employees off balance and thus ill placed to secure wage increases that match their increased output. The “cult of the customer” preached by both corporations is a scented smoke screen thrown up to hide this fact. Apart from the model’s intensive use of IT, there is not much to distinguish its methods from those of the primitive American and European capitalism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
UPDATE: George Packer, continuing his series about Amazon, touches upon a similar topic in a new post for The New Yorker:
[T]hese companies are everywhere and nowhere, ubiquitous in our lives but with no physical presence or human face. They are regarded by many users as public resources, not private corporations—there for us—and their own rhetoric furthers this misperception: Facebook’s quest for a “more open and connected world”; Google’s motto, “Don’t be evil,” and its stated mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”; Amazon’s ambition to become “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Because these endeavors seem to involve no human beings, no workers, other than ourselves—the supposed recipients of all the benefits—it takes an effort to realize that the tech economy is man-made, and that, as with the economies that preceded it, human beings have the capacity to shape and reform it for the public good. It would be easier to remember this if every time you clicked “BUY,” searched for an article, or texted a friend your screen flashed the face of a worker who once held a job that made way for your seamless online experience.
At the Financial Times, Julie L. Belcove talks to 83-year-old painter Jasper Johns about ‘Regrets’, a new series of paintings to be exhibited at MOMA next month:
Johns began “Regrets” after he came across an old photograph in a 2012 auction catalogue from Christie’s, London – though he seems little concerned with the image’s context or provenance. “It was a sale of – who’s the other artist? Francis Bacon.” On the block was Bacon’s “Study for Self-Portrait” (1964) and the catalogue had published the source material, a portfolio of photographs found in Bacon’s studio after his death in 1992. Taken by the photographer John Deakin, the pictures were of Bacon’s friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud. Bacon had married Freud’s body with his own face in “Self-Portrait”. “This is the one that struck me,” Johns says, pointing to the image of Freud perched on the quilt-covered bed and hiding his face in his hand, newspapers at his feet. The photograph was paint-splattered and torn, with a large chunk of the lower left side missing altogether, and the creases and voids – the photograph as object – were as interesting to Johns as the image itself. “Bacon mistreated the photographs physically, is what it looks like,” Johns says. “I just saw that and it caught my eye.”