Friday Book Design Blog: Help me build an A-Z of book covers
I was taken with the cover of this new poetry anthology – out in time for Valentine’s Day! – entitled The Poetry of Sex. Inside, it is pretty much what you’d expect, a bringing together of an assortment of more or less steamy poems, including some names you’d expect (Adcock, Ovid, Whitman, Cummings) but plenty too that were new to me. For which, well done to editor Sophie Hannah.
It’s a striking cover, above all for the elegance of the ‘X’ – which is, rather neatly, the x of ’sex’, as you’ll find if you turn the book over – though the silhouetted couple down in the corner are a little, well, softcore erotica – and, let’s say, erotica of a rather vanilla kind. And it’s a little prescriptive, too – there is plenty of same-sex love in these poems.
All the same, you’d have to say the cover would be a bit bare – or, if that’s not quite the right word, then stark - without them. The couple are, I suppose, reassuring, a little visual suggestion that there is nothing to be scared of in the sex inside.
But, aha, if you look really closely at the image, you’ll see that there is a very slight difference in tone of black in the image, with their head and neck being a little darker than the rest of them, the line of differentiation forming a delicate V… meaning they’re WEARING CLOTHES!
Argh, what a cop out! (In fact, I only noticed this on my blown-up screen image. You’d have to look very closely indeed at the physical book to see it.)
So yes, it was really the standalone letter that I liked about the cover, and it reminded me of another cover from last year that I’d liked – Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Therese Anne Fowler – which is also dominated by a single capital letter, and again that letter has a human form coming out of it, facing right.
I thought I’d like to put them together in a blog post, but then thought of John Updike’s S, and then John Berger’s G, both of which use their title letter to great cover effect in some editions, and then thought: wow, I wonder if I can put together a whole alphabet of single letter cover designs?
Well, the short answer, after a little shelf- and online-searching is: No.
But perhaps, I thought, readers of this blog could help me. Below are the first – and probably most obvious – entries. Please do comment below with more suggestions, and I will add them. As of posting the blog for the first time, I have 11 letters covered (though the H is a bit dubious).
And now, with plenty of help from readers on Twitter, here is the completed layout – scroll down for full size images of the covers.
Many thanks to: Anna Morrison (@Annabookdesign), , @LRBBookshop for suggestions. And to many others, I’ll add you in when a get a sec!
‘A’ by Douglas Coupland (William Heinmann, pulled off my shelves. I also wrote about this in a post on proof covers here)
‘B’ by Sarah Kay – a poem based on a TED Talk. Suggested by @Curculiunculus and others
‘C’ by Tom McCarthy (Jonathan Cape) from my shelves
‘Darwins Finches’ Ed. Kathleen Donohuem suggested by @HonestUlsterman
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