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:
"Order of the Red banner of Labour MILITARY PUBLISHING HOUSE, USSR MINISTRY OF DEFENCE. MOSCOW - 1981"
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: