Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More 2nd Hand Books

Besides 16 Chinese books, I had bought these 4 from the book sale at Bras Basah last Sunday :

The Miracle of Language | Richard Lederer | Simon & Schuster | 1991

The Mother Goose Book | Alice & Martin Provensen | Ramdoim House | 1976

A Child's Garden of Verses | Alice & Martin Provensen | Golden Press | 1951

The Charles Addams Mother Goose | Charles Addams | Simon & Schuster | 2002

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nabokov's Lolita

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

As listed yesterday, there is this gallery showcasing over 150 book and media covers from 33 countries and 54 years of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.

It’s certainly not a book that’s been universally well-served by designers. There are some covers that want to suggest Humbert Humbert’s lascivious gaze but, to avoid straying into the same morally reprehensible territory as Humbert himself, they do so with an image of a full-grown woman rather than a pre-pubescent girl. Others just have illustrations of fairly inept nymphets (there are some real grotesques in there). And there’s also some good design (as you’d hope in a collection of slightly more than 150 images). ~ Alan Trotter / greaterthanorequalto

It certainly is. Just search through the book covers for the girls.  How many of them portrait the look of a 12-year-old, pre-pubescent Lolita ?  The too-old Lolitas mostly.

Disappointed, as so few of the covers attempt to capture any of the richness of the novel, and many of them are merely absurd, or banal or a laughable combination of both, the blogger of Venus febriculosa thus organized a Lolita book cover contest, offering $350 for the best cover design.  This challenging contest had ended last month and here are some intriguing results.

Suzene Ang of Singapore
”It takes a second before you see what is going on. It’s abstract enough to keep it metaphorical, yet literal enough to imply a sense of story. I love the tease of having the type run up the leg. Elegant, with a sense of humor.” ~ John Gall

Aleksander Bak
”The lone unmoored pink scrunchy manages to be a potent symbol: surrounded by black, it’s s a memento mori representing Humbert’s loss of Lolita and the tragedy of the novel in general. Inevitably, of course, it’s also a stand in for an orifice (you decide whose and which one). The tension between the base and the sublime is wonderful and the composition is wonderful. ” ~ venusfebriculosa

Egor Krasnoperov
”First of course, there is the lollipop theme, present in all its banality, but rendered here beautifully and naively; then the circle that censors Lolita’s crotch, and, finally, the hypnotic vortex into which Humbert has fallen and which, quite literally, centers on Lolita’s sexuality. Pretty wonderful for such a minimal image. ” ~ venusfebriculosa


Lyuba Haleva of Bulgaria

Lucie Lebaz of the UK

I'm with John Gall, who picked his own top choices. Aleksander Bak and Suzene Ang’s Covers are brilliant. I also like Egor Krasnoperov's cleverly and "naughtily" rendered crotch-like lollipop.

You can find all the 155 entries here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Nabokov Collection

Lots of folks are talking (blogging) about the John Gall-curated Nabokov redesigns. John is the art director for Vintage and Anchor Books. he was tasked with redesigning the large collection for which he assembled a team of designers and requested that they each fill a butterfly specimen box with materials to suit their allotted title.  It's not often that we see an author's entire body of work redesigned by such an impressive cadre of designers. The results are simply stunning. There should be 21 of them, but so far only 18 are released for viewing. Interesting that Lolita is not included as yet. I'm waiting .....

Ada, or Ardor by Chip Kidd

Bend Sinister by Carol Carson

Despair by Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin

Glory by Martin Venezky

Invitation to a Beheading by Helen Yentus and Jason Booher

King, Queen, Knave by Peter Mendelsund

Laughter in the Dark by Dave Eggers

Look at the Harlequins! by Charles Wilkin

Pale Fire by Stephen Doyle

Pnin by Carin Goldberg

Speak, Memory by Michael Bierut

Stories by Barbara de Wilde

The Enchanter by Megan Wilson and Duncan Hannah

The Eye by John Gall

The Gift by Rodrigo Corral

The Luzhin Defense by Paul Sahre

The Real Life of Sebastion Knight by Sam Potts

Transparent Things by Marian Bantjes

Oh Yeah!  Here are some more cover designs for Nabokov's novels from all over the world for your viewing pleasure.

Ada | Penguin | 1971
Ada o ardore | Mondolibri, Milano | 1969 (Italian)
Ada ou l'ardeur | 1975 (French)
Spring in Fialta (original title : Dozen) | Popular Giant

Invitation To A Beheading | Crest Book
Lolita | DK Hans Reitzel, Copenhagen | 1957
Lolita #1
Lolita #2

Lolita | Sur, Buenos Aires | 1959 (Spanish)
Lolita | Sur, Buenos Aires | 1961 (Spanish)
Lolita | Artemis & Winkler Verlag | 1995 (German)
Lolita | Armoldo Mondadori Editore | 1955 (Italian)

Lolita | G. P. Putnam's Sons | 1955
Lolita | Éditions Gallimard | 1963 (French) ~ front cover
Lolita | Éditions Gallimard | 1963 (French) ~ back cover
Lolita | Gallimard | 2001 (French)

Lolita | Olympia Press | 1955 (1st Ed)
Lolita | Weidenfeld & Nicolson | 2009 (Special Limited Edition )
Lolita | Corgi | c1973
Laughter In The Dark | Bobbs-Merrill Company | 1939

Look At The Harlequins! | McGraw-Hill Book Co | 1974
Pnin (cover design by Jerzy Faczynski)
Pale Fire | Berkley Medallion | 1969
The Real Life of Sebastian Knight | New Directions | 1941

Despair | 2000
Glory | 2006
Invitation to a Beheading | 2001
Laughter in the Dark | 2001
Pnin | 2000
The Gift | 2001
The Annotated Lolita | 2000
The Original of Laura | 2009 (Dust Jacket) ~ design by Chip Kidd
The Original of Laura | 2009 (Front & Back covers)
The Original of Laura | 2009 (inside)

RUSSIAN Владимир Набоков
Лоли́та Lolita | Phaedra | 1967
Лоли́та Lolita | RU Azbooka-Klassika, St.Petersburg | 2006
Пнин Pnin 1957

HEBREW ולדימיר נבוקוב
Lolita לוליטה

ARABIC فلاديمير نابوكوف
لوليت loulita | LEB Dar Al-Adab, Beirut | 1988
لوليت loulita 1999
Pnin | Karnameh Publication, Tehran (Design by Hasan Karimzadeh)
The Defense | Karnameh Publication, Tehran (Design by Hasan Karimzadeh)

KOREAN 블라디미르 나보 코프
Lolita 로리타 1995
Lolita 로리타 1999

JAPANESE ウラジーミル ナボコフ
Lolita ロリータ | 新潮文庫 | 2006
Lolita ロリータ | 新潮社 | 2005
Lolita ロリータ | 河出書房新社 | 1974
Lolita ロリータ | 河出書房新社 | 1962
Lolita ロリータ. 2 | 河出書房新社 | 1959
The Defense ディフェンス | 河出書房新社 | 1999
The Defense ディフェンス | 河出書房新社 | 2008
Letters that never reach Russia ロシアに届かなかった手紙 | 集英社 | 1981

CHINESE 弗拉基米尔•纳博科夫
Lolita 洛丽塔 | 外语教学与研究出 | 2005
Pnin 普宁 | 上海译文 | 2007
Speak, Memory 说吧,记忆——自传追述 | 上海译文 | 2009
Despair 绝望 | 上海译文 | 2006
Laughter In The Dark 黑暗中的笑声 | 上海译文 | 2006

Lastly, this is a dummy design for Lolita by Ian Shimkoviak. Let's wait to see what will the final design look like.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Used Women's Book Club

Finished reading The Used Women's Book Club by Paul Bryers few days ago.  An easy read.

The story : On the night the Used Women's Book Club meets to swap novels and exchange literary views, Rob the husband (a womanizer) of one of its members is being brutally murdered in the flat of his childhood friend Larry, who by any chance, is contemplating an affair with Meg, Rob's wife.

I wasn't surprised to find out later that Rob is also screwing one of the book club member.  To spice it up literarily, Virginia Woolf, along with Jack the Ripper, are introduced and interwoven in this tense thriller.  Interesting.

Some passages that I'd like to note down :

The demon voice in his ear - or his head. Larry heard it as clearly now as when the speaker was alive, with its rasping note of sarcasm - or irony - or wonder that anyone could be quite so naive. Death had not blunted its edge. There was no sign yet that Rob would sink gracefully into the silence beyond the grave.  Perhaps because he wasn't in a grave. He was in some frozen drawer of a police morgue with a tag on his toe. [pg55]

In the version Jo's father read to her - the hollywood version, just as the wolf is about to gobble up the little girl, the woodsman rushes into the cottage and kills it with his axe.  Then he cuts open the wolf's stomach and out jumps the little girl's grandmother, alive and kicking.  Then Little Riding Hood marries the woodsman and they all live happily ever after.
But in the version Jo's mother told her -  the bohemian version - the wolf eats both the grandmother and the little girl and that is the end of them.  No woodsman with his axe, no marriage, just a blood-soaked hood and well-fed wolf. [pg69 - which was meant as a warning, so that pretty little girls didn't stop to speak to strange man]

Rob's theory, of course, was that women were attracted to the wildness in men but had a compulsion to tame it out of them.  They didn't want to share their cave with the human equivalent of a cave bear but they'd rather have him on the inside pissing out, than on the outside pissing in. So he had to be house-trained, the same as all the other animals: the dogs and horses, the beasts of burden.  They had to be broken in.  Unbroken, they were dangerous. [pg209]

Jo was in two minds about being picked up from the airport.  On the one hand, it was nice to be met. On the other, she would have preferred not to be met at seven in the morning at the age of thirty-seven after a night flight across the Atlantic by someone with whom she was contemplating a romance. [pg218]

2nd Hand Picture Books

I've bought few more picture books, all in hardcover, last Sunday :

  • The Firebird | Demi | Henry Holt,1994 | $4
  • Rainbow Days (Sparkle Books) | Dana Simson | Book Company Pub. ,2002 | $2
  • Eloise Takes A Bawth | Kay Thompson / Hilary Knight | Simon & Schuster,2002 | $4
  • The Lady with the Ship on Her Head | Deborah Nourse Lattimore | Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,1990 | $2
  • 365 Penguins | Jean-Luc Fromental/ Joëlle Jolivet | Abrams Books,2006 | $6.9

How could you resist it, especially with such unbelievably low price each, and the book conditions are considerably good, just minor bumps at spine, minor rubbing to extremities of dustwrapper, and slight foxing in The Firebird.
Also purchased few Chinese books from Grassroots Book Room.

Monday, November 16, 2009


The deluxe volume of Michelangelo. La dotta mano, or The Wise Hand, which is produced by Italian fine art publishing house Marilena Ferrari-FMR is now on display at Level 8, Lee Kong Chian Reference Library till 31 December. The book, with a price tag of 100,000 euros (about 200,000 SGD), will be housed in the National Art Gallery Library when the new state art gallery open its doors in 2013.  A pity that we can't look at the detailed photographs of Michelangelo’s drawings and sculptures inside the book.

The other exhibition that worth a visit is Vignettes in Time : Singapore Map and History Through the Centuries, at level 10 until 18 November, featuring many never-before-seen maps from the collections of NLB and Lim Shao Bin.  These 2 maps illustrating the military strategies of Imperial Japan during the World War II are very extraordinary.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Paper Forms

Here are some more images from Forms of Paper 紙のフォルム (紙の造型) to show you the intriguing origami by Hiroshi Ogawa 尾川宏. I find the Japanese version - book I and II, designed by Ikko Tanaka 田中一光, both in slipcase, are more attractive. They are very costly, though.  At the moment, the minimum asking prices are¥9,999 (abt SGD154) for book I (1967) and ¥15,799 (abt SGD243) for book II (1976).