Neverwhere

I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan. He was the author that first introduced me to urban fantasy, my favorite genre, and subsequently I found a name for the sort of fiction I wrote, and a clan of followers. This was all before Stardust was released on DVD and everyone and their mothers were reading Sandman. Not to say publicity isn’t good, but now he’s become kind of a bad writer (I hated Fragile Things, it was so boring. Not at all similar to Smoke and Mirrors). I think it’s really easy to fall back on popularity and put out whatever you can when you’re a megasuperstar. He really is the Thom Yorke of non-literary fiction these days.

That said, I’m doing Neverwhere today, which I’m sure most of you know, and for those who don’t, it follows this guy who stumbles across a strange girl named Door, who has magical powers and can open any door she comes across. She takes him to London Below, which is basically London, but underground and spooky. She has to find out who killed her family. They meet the Marquis of Carabas (who is my favorite character), the token character that employs dry wit to give a humorous edge to some scenes. It’s a great, great book. Do read it if you haven’t.

Neverwhere has been released so many times in the past fifteen or so years that the number of copies available (or not available) is pretty large. I guess he didn’t really boom in popularity until five or so years ago, so maybe that’s why.

BBC Books, 1996.

Avon, 1998.

William Morrow, 2003.

Review, 2005.

This one is a comic book, but nonetheless has furthered the Neverwhere franchise.

Titan Books, 2007. (Comic)

William Morrow, 2010. Special Edition, 1000 prints.

The latter edition was a special release, only sold for 2 days, and cost $200. All the copies were signed and were printed 7×10. It was the “author’s preferred” text, which I assume means the UK version (the US publisher cut out 2000 words). Kind of like a Director’s cut, I suppose (see post on film and publishing!)

And I’m not counting the foreign editions, of which many exist. I found a photo of the French version:

You can look at all the foreign additions here.

There’s also a DVD release and several audio CDs, though I won’t get into that here. I’ve never seen the Neverwhere miniseries, so any opinion I could give you would be highly uneducated.

Does anyone else love this book as much as I do?

Cheers!

Advertisements

Film and Publishing?

I am a very firm believer that the film and publishing industries are very closely aligned.

I’m not only saying this because I’m graduating with a film degree and want to work in publishing, I promise. I really do believe that if you major in film you’ll make a great editor (and vice-versa).

How can this be? you purists will ask, and I have received that response before. But let me just say, sometimes people who don’t major in English make the best writers.

For starters, Film is a collaborative art. Making a movie requires enormous amounts of employees, all doing different jobs, in order to produce this mammoth (or so they hope) final work. Not too surprisingly, in publishing, this is also the case. You’ve got editors critiquing manuscripts, production staff preparing the physical bits of the book, publicity marketing it, and plenty of other departments involved as well.

Then you’ve got the work itself. Film is a visual media based off of words. Scripts are the foundation for every film. They may be stripped bare of prose and flouncy language, but they’re the bones of a great work (sometimes). Books, obviously, are also based on the written word, and seek to evoke images in the heads of their readers. The people who attempt to make this happen are generally different from those who make it happen in film (cinematographers are not writers, but they perform a similar function).

The counterpart of a film editor is the book editor. The film editor takes the director’s beloved rushes and chops them up into bitty pieces (or, if they work digitally, chops them up into bitty clips) and strings them all up together to make a better film. Similar to what the book editor does with words.

And lastly, why do I say a non-English major is sometimes the publishing company’s best friend? Well, when you spend days and days writing analytical papers about fiction and then tearing that well-loved work to shreds in the often futile hope of getting an A, you often lose the point of literature, which is to enjoy reading. Not to mention you become over-analytical and start assuming every other phrase is a metaphor for some greater and deeper meaning.

Also, I am very annoyed by English majors that assume they will get a job immediately after college with MacMillian or Random House or HarperCollins just because they majored in English. Come on, it makes you no better than me. Especially if you can’t write well.

Finally, because everyone can use a bit of this in their day (as you can tell, today was an exceptionally bad one for me):

There you go. Film editing.

Cheers!

Kay Nielsen: Illustrations

This isn’t exactly about cover art, though some of Kay Nielsen’s drawings have graced the covers of picture books and storybook anthologies. Nielsen is an acclaimed illustrator from the earlier part of the 20th century.

I’ve had a copy of East of the Sun and West of the Moon, illustrated by Nielsen, since childhood. I was intrigued by his style and wanted to see more of his work after I revisited the book this week. This led to an overly long time spent researching folktale illustrations (hey, I guess that would be useful for publishing…?), especially Norwegian ones.

I’m half Norwegian, and have found myself very interested in my roots lately. Nielsen is Danish, but he has done plenty of work on Norwegian folktales. He died in poverty–a sad ending for someone so talented. I find it discouraging that so many creative visionaries find themselves in less than desirable circumstances at their deaths (with notable exceptions, of course, such as Walt Disney).

What’s even more discouraging is that this book now sells for near $40,000, and the author sees none of the profits (well, that would be hard since he’s been dead for years, but you know what I mean).

Here’s a nice biography of the illustrator. And here’s a link to the online version of the book, posted by Project Gutenberg . Gotta love them.

Some illustrations from East of the Sun and West of the Moon, by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Engebretsen Moe, published 1914 by Hodder & Stoughton:

“'Well, mind and hold tight by my shaggy coat, and then there’s nothing to fear,' said the Bear, so she rode a long, long way." --East of the Sun, West of the Moon
"Then he coaxed her down and took her home." --The Lassie and her Godmother
"And then she lay on a little green patch in the midst of the gloomy thick wood." -- East of the Sun, West of the Moon
The Three Princesses in the Blue Mountain
“'You’ll come to three Princesses, whom you will see standing in the earth up to their necks, with only their heads out.'” --The Three Princesses of Whiteland

And an illustration not from the collection:

Nielsen's sketch for the Little Mermaid (Disney)

Now, finally, the actual book. The original edition from 1914:

Folio released a new edition of the book in 2000.

My version (1977, Dover):

Apparently it’s worth around $200…I guess we’ll be keeping that one. Maybe in the year 2050 we’ll be able to sell the book as an artifact.

Thanks for reading! Cheers!

Candide

Everyone’s favorite idiot, Candide, is a character in another of the most reissued books of all time. I’m sure Voltaire would have something witty to say about each of these editions.

First, the original. This first edition was issued in 1759, by Cramer. Prints were quickly copied and made into the knock-off “17 editions” of Candide. Silly counterfeiters.

This is a fairly nondescript edition from 1884, issued by Routledge.

This is my second favorite edition, and if I had $650 to throw around, I’d buy it immediately. It’s a flash image and I couldn’t find a photo of it anywhere else, so if you want, you can follow the link. It’s from 1928, by Nilsson.

Then Random House issued this reprint in 1928, with illustrations by Rockwell Kent:

That illustration is not for the faint of heart.

Random House reissued this print in 1975. Little changed, so I guess it sold well.

Then we have my favorite one: The Folio Society’s edition. It sold for $375.00 and only 1000 copies were printed. For shame. Though I’m not sure how I would feel about acquiring a $375.00 version of a work I could get for $5.00 from Dover Classics.

Speaking of which, here’s my copy, the infamously ugly Dover Classics edition from 1991.

I hate that version. What’s with the weird marbled effect on the cover? Not to mention the actual contents of the book. What a shoddy translation. Don’t buy this one. Go for either of these two:

Penguin Classics from 2005 and 2009 respectively.

And this is only a selection. There are loads of other versions. Too many, I think, for the average reader. How does one know what translation will be accurate? Each of these touts itself as an informative edition. The Dover one certainly wasn’t.

If anyone knows someone at Europa, put in a good word for me! I’m applying for their winter internship. Internships seem to be just as competitive as jobs now. Hopefully I’ll get one…

Cheers!

Bella’s Favorite Books

I find this marketing campaign despicable, but incredibly effective:

HarperCollins Teen released new editions of three old classics way back in 2009, each of which was mentioned in Twilight as one of Bella’s favorite books (if you’ve missed out on the Twilight phenomenon, you must live under a rock, so I’ll let you dust the dirt off your laptop and find out about it elsewhere). I don’t know about you, but I was rather saddened to see three solid classics adorned with blatant Twilight-knock-off covers.

It’s not that they’re badly done, because really, they’re not. If you think about it from the point of view of a publicity agent, this is actually a really smart move. They’re basically marketing these three books as a continuation of the Twilight series–the blurb on the front of P&P says, “The love that started it all,” which to me implies that this is supposed to be a prelude to Bella/Edward’s relationship, and that these two novels have common ground. Of course, anyone who has read P&P knows that Darcy and Edward are nothing alike and that Bella and Elizabeth aren’t either, but the average teen probably hasn’t read it.

I’m sure Harper Collins Teen claims that these covers will induce more children to read, but really, if it takes a marketing scheme based on one of the most overrated books in existence (not to mention one of the most flawed and poorly written), then I don’t think there’s much hope for the masses of the coming generations.

Of course, I hope that’s not true. I like to think that reading will continue to be a staple of everyday life for the next few centuries, and that ideas will continue to spread through the written word. Popular culture is extinguishing my hope for this (by the way, have you looked at children’s handwriting these days? Thanks to computers, they have the worst penmanship I’ve ever seen) but I do see the point behind this campaign.

“Love never dies”? Really? And “The original forbidden love”? Spare me.

Well Harper Collins, I will commend you. I hope that entices you to read over my application to be your editorial assistant, despite the fact I just disparaged your company.

Cheers and have a good Saturday!

On my nightstand: The Kingdom of Ohio

What’s on my nightstand this week?

It is, in fact, The Kingdom of Ohio, by Matthew Flaming. I have to admit, this has been on my nightstand for about two weeks now, because of the three other books I’m supposed to be reading for classes (Jane Austen in Scarsdale, Jehan de Saintré, and Gouverneurs de la Rosée). In a bout of insomnia last night, I ripped through about half the book.

A little synopsis, then: This book is told in retrospection by an old man. He has done extensive research on New York in the early 1900s, and this is the stage on which most of the novel plays out. Our hero, Peter Force, is a subway worker new to the city. One day, he spots a disheveled and possibly mad woman collapsed on the street. Her name is Cheri Anne Toledo, and she tells him a fantastical story about the kingdom of Ohio, supposedly absolved into the USA seven years prior. She claims to have traveled through time to visit New York. Through a number of encounters with various well-known figures of the period (JP Morgan, Tesla, Edison) she and Peter endeavor to figure out what has happened to her.

While it’s a cute (and overdone) premise, it reads pretty slowly. The writing isn’t that great, but it’s entertaining enough. It was published by Berkley Books (a Penguin imprint) and I can appreciate the complaints about the quality of the books being published there these days. Editorial assistants love to complain about their imprints and I love to listen.

The characters are okay, and I have to admit, I am biased towards Cheri Anne because her name is so cool. But really, Peter Force is just another guy stuck in foreign world who gets saddled with a weird task and a strange sidekick. I also wasn’t really that thrilled with the guest-stars (the aforementioned inventors and tycoon), who, I felt, really detracted from what could have been an interesting linear tale. Eliminate the retrospection, the famous figures, and shorten it by about 200 pages, and you’ve got a winner.

So give it a try. It’s certainly not at the top of my favorites list, but it’s a good beach book.