Monday, February 27, 2012

More Book Covers

Here are my favourite book covers from last week:

It could be a poster for the Big Society, with a young David and Samantha Cameron looking rather contemptuously at the boy from the local slums . Perhaps David is searching for a bobby: "Arrest that ruffian constable! He's stealing our snow."

This rather downbeat illustration is for a collection of stories about jolly girls doing plucky things. I think that the girl in the deck chair is probably saying:

"The notion of ambiguity must not be confused with that of absurdity. To declare that existence is absurd is to deny that it can ever be given a meaning; to say that it is ambiguous is to assert that its meaning is never fixed, that it must be constantly won."

Or something like that.

By contrast, this angst-free cover looks more like a 1950s glamour magazine than a children's annual. I think the artist was going beyond his remit.

Annuals may have changed over the years, but the one thing they had in common was that they were always complete crap. I remember the huge excitement on Christmas Day when I unwrapped a present containing an annual of my favourite tv programme, followed by the crushing disappointment when I realised that the contents were a selection of dull short stories and some poorly-executed drawings.

The next book is rather unusual:

Airport was, of course, one of the most successful thrillers of the late 1960s and the film adaptation spawned a wave of disaster movies. Arthur Hailey's novel was a worldwide success, but I didn't realise that there was also an official Soviet version:


If I had to write a list of 20th century novels that might meet with the approval of the Soviet censor, Airport wouldn't be the first book that sprang to mind. But given Aeroflot's reputation in the 1980s, perhaps this was seen as a work of social realism.

This copy is in English, but every page has annotations at the bottom in Cyrillic. I expect they're ensuring that Mr Hailey's narrative is placed within a Marxist-Leninist context.

Finally, a very different novel from the late 1960s:

Apparently, quite a few of the women who appeared on the covers of Richard Brautigan's novels were also his lovers. It's comforting to see that a dodgy haircut and moustache is no obstacle to attracting a beautiful woman:

As writers' lives go, Brautigan's was one of the grimmest. Described by Thomas McGuane as "a gentle, troubled, deeply odd guy", Brautigan shot himself at the age of 49.

His suicide note read: "Messy, isn't it?"

Perhaps he would have been happier if he'd met a crowd of nice young people:


Little Nell said...

You’re absolutely right about the annuals, they never lived up to expectations. The girly ones I had in the 60s had too much ‘pop’ stuff in. I remember my brother's Eagle and Dare in the 50s though being jampacked with stories - or am I looking back through rose coloured spectacles?

Speaking of which, isn’t that what you wear when you write (and read) historical romances? They’d need to be very rosy if you were going to find any ‘romance’ in a story called ‘The Abortion’.

Steerforth said...

You're right - the annuals based on comics weren't too bad. The worst offenders were the tv tie-ins. I found a 1975 Doctor Who annual the other week and it was awful - no photos or articles about Dalek guns vs Cybermen ones (and frankly that's all I wanted to know when I was 10), just some really dull short stories with drawings that looked nothing like the Doctor.

Kids today...they don't know how lucky they are ;)

Richmonde said...

The "Ideal" book is a 50s glamour girl with a child's face pasted in. Ugh!

Martin said...

Brautigan bears an uncanny resemblance to Vivian Stanshall.

Biscuit said...

I actually have that Brautigan book, as well as several others: I read him quite a lot in high school, for some reason. I guess because they were boho, and I was desperate to look intelligent and hip.

When I was in Brownies one of the leaders used to bring in annuals that were sent to her from England and I thought they were so exotic. We don't have really have anything comparable here, other than I suppose the comic-book annuals (Archie and the like).


Lucky you getting a current annual as a gift. Try a pile of out-of-date annuals with the wordsearches filled in and 'Angie luvs Johnnie' scrawled on each page. No wonder I didn't turn out right.

Love the quip about the Camerons.


Tim Footman said...

Little do Sam and Dave know, but the grinning urchin's snowball has something small and vile inside - the still-beating heart of George Osborne. Take that, Bullingdon!

James Russell said...

Brautigan's fragmentary novel 'Trout Fishing in America' is wonderful - poetic and funny. I must have read it fifty times. There's a website devoted to the book and its author:

I wrote something about it here:

He did have a terrible haircut, but he had a way with words too...

Steerforth said...

Richmonde - It is rather unsavoury, I agree.

Martin - It's quite uncanny - separated at birth?

Biscuit - I've seen some of those Brownie annuals - they must have made Britain seem an even odder place than it is.

Lucy - You should write a memoir. If it's half as entertaining as your blog, it will be a great read.

Tim - That reminds me of 'Class War' in the 1980s, which advised its readers to attack toffs with something rather unpleasant: "Lurk, strike and leg-it!"

James - Thanks for the link. I shall have to get hold of a copy.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Presumably Mr Brautigan reached the age at which his dodgy haircut and moustache no longer worked in pulling the birds.

What a grim line in fiction he appeared to write.

Bollops said...

I loved my Whoopee and Monster Fun annuals, but yes, the TV ones were diabolical. Here's a page from what I believe must have been the very worst:

Can anybody beat that?

Steerforth said...

Awful. They'd be on 'Watchdog' now, with a scary mother shouting "I bought this annual for my little kiddie..."

Steerforth said...

Awful. They'd be on 'Watchdog' now, with a scary mother shouting "I bought this annual for my little kiddie..."

David said...

I used to like the Doctor Who annuals - there was a whole parallel series of Dalek cartoon stories without the Doctor, if I remember rightly the Daleks were fighting something called the Anti Dalek Force. This all originated as a an attempt by Terry nation to spin off the Daleks in the Us with their own series. That never came to anything, but it turned up in the annuals.

The Parrot said...

Poor Brautigan. Here's his daughter reading one of his stories, on his birthday. Affecting.

Steerforth said...

Thanks - an example of YouTube at its best.