The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Midweek Miscellany


Atrocity Exhibition — Rick Poynor on the book covers  and other visual interpretations of J.G. Ballard at Design Observer:

The repeated failure of editors, designers and illustrators to engage intellectually with The Atrocity Exhibition is all the more remarkable because the book offers a litany of Ballardian images: bunkers, concrete causeways, jutting balconies, crashed bombers, a drained sculpture fountain, a deserted beach resort, rubber mannequins and plastic dummies, as well as more ambiguous images such as a “conceptual auto disaster” or a “spinal landscape” — quite apart from its erotic content.

See also: James Pardey’s essay on David Pelham’s Ballard covers for Penguin.

Cock of the Walk — Publisher Benedikt Taschen profiled in The Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Taschen admits he puts too much love and attention into his creations to ever go into the orbit of mass publishing, adding that he wants to make collectibles, not disposables. “Most books look so s— and dispassionately done; they are disposable from the beginning,” says the publisher. “Their books are not designed to become significant objects, so most books have no identity, no soul. I’m not saying all, but the vast majority [of publishing houses], with a few exceptions, have lost their profile and personality. It doesn’t look like they have spent a lot of care and love.”

(Says the publisher of The Big Butt Book book…)

A wonderful gallery of book trade labels.

See also: Book trade labels in the collection of Crossett Library Bennington College (via @shelfappeal).

The Lure of Lists — Literature professor Jeremy Dauber on the attraction of literary lists for More Intelligent Life:

Looking at the books double-stacked on shelves in my office, I can check off their provenance one by one: New York Times 10 Best Books of 2010; 500 Essential Graphic Novels; Harold Bloom’s guide at the end of The Western Canon; the awards list at the Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards; and the National Yiddish Book Centre’s 100 Greatest Works of Modern Jewish Literature. The stacks include the occasional recommendation of a friend or an impulse buy, but those are the exceptions to the list-derived rule.

And finally…

…On the list of all things awesome, BLDGBLOG interviewing Hellboy creator Mike Mignola ranks pretty highly (thanks @derekmurr):

I have never done a story in a shopping mall because, even if I’m not drawing it myself, I don’t want to see somebody draw a shopping mall. In the Hellboy world, and in other things I’ve done, those places almost don’t exist. When I do Eastern Europe—and I’ve been to Eastern Europe, and I’ve seen the shopping malls and the god-awful housing projects and things, and there are horror stories that take place in there, I have no doubt—but I gravitate toward the classic, clichéd, spooky places, whether they truly exist in this world or not.

See also: Hellboy: The Whittier Legacy in USA Today.

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