Hi everyone, owing to multiple health issues, it has been much too long since I have been able to post anything new on this blog. I’m very happy to say that this ends today! And it begins with a new Cover Art Collage post – This time we are looking at the Lost Generation classic Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos.
First published in 1925, Manhattan Transfer traces the changes of urban development in New York City as it transitions from the Gilded Age to the Jazz Age. A very experimental novel for its time, MT has been referred to as “a novel without a plot,” when in fact there are numerous plots. There is, however, no one plot throughout, and no one plot that unites all the characters. A classic that has stood the test of time, let’s look at some of the great covers that have been used over the nearly hundred years since it first reached the public.
Unsurprisingly, most covers feature some sort of version of New York City. What is interesting is the lens that is used. We can look at these covers as a long shot that gradually zooms into the city, bringing the reader from the outside in. Let’s follow this thread three at a time:
With the first cover we start with Manhattan way off in the distance, as if we were flying in on a plane. We are flying over skyscrapers, and next we’re getting closer to street level, looking straight on at a skyscraper.
These three covers continue to bring us closer. Now we are on street level, looking through a bridge to a skyscraper in the distance, then we get our first glimpse of people, with an apartment building, and finally we are on their level, in a room with a crowd of people.
Finally, with this series of three we are with the people themselves. First we are sitting with a woman, but we can’t see her face, then we see the faces of a couple but they are clearly cut off from us, and lastly we are at a bar drinking and smoking with a man and looking him in the eye.
I think this series of nine covers is an excellent depiction of this novel. As we read it we get closer and closer to the people and to the city itself until we feel a part of it, living, loving, and losing with them. Each cover looks at the city from a different distance, but combined they give us the full story of New York City coming into its own in the 20th century.
For a long time I’ve wanted to start adding information to the site related to Lost Generation documentaries, bio pics, and movies based on their works. I’m happy to say that day is finally here and we’ll start out with a slightly different take on a documentary courtesy of Monty Python alum, author, and constant traveler Michael Palin.
Back in 1988 Palin gave us what is perhaps his best travel documentary/adventure, Around the World in 80 Days with Michael Palin. If you haven’t seen it it’s fantastic, with him racing the clock to travel as closely as possible in Phileas Fogg’s footsteps. Since then Palin has made a number of fascinating shows, including 1999’s Michael Palin’s Hemingway Adventure.
A departure from his other travel documentaries, it is much more stylized, with Palin tracing Hemingway’s journeys from his birth in Oak Park, Illinois to his death in Ketchum, Idaho, hitting everywhere in-between. Broken up into four hour-long episodes, he also wrote a book about the trip.
Overall I think this is very much worth watching, even for the casual Hemingway enthusiast. Palin is always entertaining and engaging in his very delightful British way. If there is anything that hurts this program, it is, for me, the much more planned nature of it. One of the most interesting things about many of his other programs is the kind of “flying by the seat of your pants” feel to them, which this one doesn’t really have so much. So if you’re used to his other types of programs, you might find this point a little lacking, but if you’ve never watched any of them, I don’t imagine you would be disappointed in any way by this one.
Hemingway is a interesting cultural study for any number of reasons, however, one thing that seems to be unique to him is just how many people will stake a claim to him and his legacy as if they were the arbiter of all things Hemingway. That is something that clearly comes across in this program, pretty much in every place that he travels to.
For example, starting in his birthplace of Oak Park. I myself was born in Oak Park and have spent a good amount of time in and around the area. I’ve been to his birthplace and walked around his neighborhood. People there claim him as if he never had anything against the town and treat him as if he never spoke ill of it. One strange thing is that sections of the downtown area are denoted as the “Ernest Hemingway District,” with pictures and banners of him lining the streets. Never do they mention how desperately he wanted to leave the place, how stifled he felt by their old, staid ways. I certainly can’t speak for the man, but from what I know about him it does not seem like something that the he would enjoy.
Another instance of this is in Key West, where Palin takes part in a Hemingway look-alike contest. Good lord some of these people are obnoxious. I’m sure many of them genuinely enjoy Papa and his work, but I’m also pretty sure that Hemingway himself would want to punch a number of them in the face. The whole thing is just bizarre.
There are great stretches in this program in Africa, Spain, Michigan, Paris, Cuba and Montana. All of it is engaging and worth a watch.
Have any suggestions for documentaries about the Lost Generation that we should cover? Please leave a comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers!
Hey everyone, welcome to another edition of Cover Art Collage. Today we’re going to be taking a look at some of the different artwork which has been used for the cover of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise.
First published in 1920, This Side of Paradise skyrocketed Fitzgerald to fame as a voice of his generation. The story follows a fictionalized version of Fitzgerald under the guise of Amory Blaine as he grows from young child to Princeton alumnus and beyond.
Here is a collection of some of the art which has been used to portray this novel:
There are some interesting different takes on cover art here. As the story revolves almost exclusively around Amory and his coming-of-age, to me the most natural of cover art would be with emphasis on this idea of “man alone,” which indeed is what we see in several of these. However, the original artwork and the Barnes & Noble edition both emphasize a romantic looking couple, with deference actually given to the woman. Going beyond this is the Penguin Classics edition, which only shows a wistful woman basking in the moonlight, which points to the idea of romance, but is not particularly reflective of the story itself in my eyes. And then you have the ones which point to a black-and-white photo of a group of young people, choosing to put the focus on the idea of this as a “college novel” of “wild youth.”
As usual, all of these are interesting choices, and while I love the original artwork, I prefer the ones which show a man alone, it simply seems more in tune with the book itself, which is one of my favorites.
What you all think? Any preferences?
Until next time enjoy the rest of your weekend and happy reading!
When I was setting up all the profile pages about Lost Generation writers for this site, I was familiar in varying degrees with almost every one of them. And most of the ones that I had not heard of generally produced very few works and it seemed reasonable that they hadn’t crossed my path yet. One notable exception to this was Kay Boyle, who was completely unfamiliar to me.
Boyle was a novelist, short story writer, educator, and political activist. And notably, she wrote a ton. When I start to learn about someone new one of the things I often like to do is try to find footage of them in order to see their mannerisms, hear their voice, and then bring that voice into my head when I’m reading their actual words.
To that end, today I went in search of Kay Boyle on YouTube. Honestly, I didn’t find all that much, but there were a couple videos, and it was great to connect static bibliographies and the like with an actual person, and I’d like to share those clips below because for so prolific an author, she seems to be generally forgotten.
The first clip I found was her accepting an Honorary Doctorate at Bowling Green State University in 1985, in which she talks about The Revolution of The Word in the 1920s. Check it out:
Next, I found this compilation of clips which includes her, her son and daughter, and other writers. It’s a great little intro to this woman, who seems like she led a fascinating life and definitely seems to deserve more recognition.
Both clips were uploaded by Kelley Baker, who calls himself “The Angry Filmmaker.” Apparently he has been working on a documentary about Boyle for many years now, but as far as I can tell, it still remains unfinished. Hopefully she will be able to finish it up because it’s definitely something that I would love to watch.
Has anyone read any of Boyle’s works? If so what would you recommended I start with?
I love finding out how little I actually know about this time period, even though I’ve been greatly attracted to it for a long time. Here’s to finding out more and more!
In today’s examination of cover art designs of Lost Generation novels, were going to look at Aldous Huxley’s classic work of dystopian fiction, Brave New World. First published in 1932, it tells of a future World State, where citizens are scientifically engineered to fit into an intelligence-based social hierarchy. His most famous work, Brave New World was ranked by Modern Library as number 5 on their list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
For our purposes today, however, we will focus on the cover art that has been used throughout the years. Goodreads list a total of 1,363 different editions of the work. Here are some of our favorites, starting with the first edition cover:
I really enjoy most of the covers that have been used for this work, especially the original, and the one below it. Of this is definitely a case where publishers have generally tried to use the artwork to reflect the story itself, as opposed to some works where the cover art is kind of mind boggling.
Clearly the emphasis has been on a futuristic feel, a somewhat mechanical vision, where humans are less than human. Only one of the images in our collage involves a human face, but it is more alien than human.
How do you feel about these designs? If you weren’t familiar with the story would any of them inspire you to pick them up and check the book out? Let us know below!
I know there is a new adaptation of Brave New World on Peacock. From what I’ve read it is very loosely based on the novel and was canceled after one season, neither of which fact has led me to look any further into it or give it a shot. Has anyone watched that would recommend it? While it’s a great novel, frankly my desire for anything dystopian has greatly been diminished during the last four years, not to mention this drawn out pandemic.
For a radically different dose of Huxley, check out his first novel Crome Yellow, which I recently finished. Interestingly, there is a conversation in it which foreshadows the society Huxley envisioned in Brave New World, which we’ll be looking at in a future post.
With the all pervasiveness of cameras everywhere we go these days, it can be easy to forget that it’s a very modern phenomenon. 100 years ago you could walk around any street and not worry about cameras filming your every move. Obviously there have been some benefits to this, but for me I’d rather return to a time there wasn’t always an eye on me. But I digress.
In searching for footage of my favorite author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, I found very, very little that survives. But that just makes the few clips that are out there worth all that much more. To see him move and smile, interact with Zelda and Scottie, is just a treasure. Here’s all I could find, if you know of any more please me know with either a comment below or an email at email@example.com.
First is a clip of him and Zelda is Paris, around 1924-25.
Next, a short clip of him writing that appears to be from an old newsreel.
Lastly, a compilation by YouTube user John Hall. It has parts of the above clips but a few others as well. Great, great stuff.
I hope there are others out there who enjoyed these as much as I did. And hopefully there are more clips floating around somewhere that I just don’t know about 🙂
In today’s examination of cover art designs of Lost Generation novels, were going to look at Ernest Hemingway’s second novel, A Farewell to Arms, published in 1929. Set during World War I it follows the story of Frederic Henry, a lieutenant in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army. The main storyline deals with the romance between Henry and English nurse Catherine Barkley.
Goodreads lists a total of 1,506 different editions of this novel. Let’s take a look at some of the cover art that’s been used throughout the years:
The upper left-hand corner image is the original cover art, designed by Cleonike “Cleon” Damianakes. He was also responsible for the cover art of Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises. Apparently Hemingway was not a fan, writing to his editor of this design, “I cannot admire the awful legs on that woman or the gigantic belly muscles [on the man].”
Personally I like this cover design, but it is arguable whether it is actually applicable to the story within. Many subsequent editions, not surprisingly, have used some sort of war image, or highlighted the romance of the story over everything else, like the second cover in this collage.
What are your thoughts? What should be the primary role of cover art? Is it all simply about marketing and convincing someone to buy the book, or is it more than that? Let us know below!
It’s currently a blizzard here in Chicago, which makes for excellent reading weather. I hope wherever you are, however the weather, you’re able to get in some quality reading today too.
I recently finished reading Aldous Huxley‘s first novel, Crome Yellow(1921). For those who only know the author from Brave New World, this is very much a departure, focusing as it does on a young man’s summer holiday at an English country estate. Using this as a premise, Huxley sets up a series of episodes satirizing the English country novel, as well as his nation and modern times in general. And yet, it actually contains what could easily be seen as a seed for Brave New World –
In Chapter 22 a character named Mr. Scogan talks about how only madmen become great, that reasonable men never do. He details his beliefs of how saying man must wrestle power from the madmen, giving rise to the “Rational State.” This state, he says, will have “three main species,” – “the Directing Intelligences, the Men of Faith, and the Herd.” He says Denis (the main character) doesn’t fit into any of the three and would thus be killed.
“Two hours. One hundred and twenty minutes. Anything might be done in that time. Anything. Nothing. Oh, he had had hundreds of hours, and what had he done with them? Wasted them, split the precious minutes as though his reservoir were inexhaustible.” – (Page 1)
“A serious book about artists regarded as artists is unreadable; and a book about artists regarded as lovers, husbands, dipsomaniacs, heroes, and the like is really not worth writing again.” – (Page 13)
“Parallel straight lines, Denis reflected, meet only at infinity. He might talk forever of care-charmer sleep and she of meteorology till the end of time. Did one ever establish contact with anyone? We are all parallel straight lines.” – (Page 14)
“Things somehow seem more real and vivid when one can apply someone else’s ready-made phrase about them.” – (Page 16)
“One had a philosophy and tried to make life fit into it. One should have lived first and then made one’s philosophy to fit life… Life, facts, things were horribly complicated; ideas, even the most difficult of them deceptively simple. In the world of ideas everything was clear; in life all was obscure, embroiled. Was it surprising that one was miserable, horribly unhappy?” – (Page 17)
“I can take nothing for granted, I can enjoy nothing as it comes along. Beauty, pleasure, art, women – I have to invent an excuse, a justification for everything that’s delightful. Otherwise I can’t enjoy it with an easy conscience.” – (Page 18)
“At the present time the Anglican clergy wear their collars the wrong way round. I would compel them to wear, not only their collars, but all their clothes, turned back to front–coat, waistcoat, trousers, boots–so that every clergyman should present to the world a smooth façade, unbroken by stud, button, or lace. The enforcement of such a liivery would act as a wholesome deterrent to those intending to enter the Church.” – (Page 34-35)
“‘This adolescence business,’ he repeated to himself every now and then, ‘is horribly boring.’ But the fact that he knew his disease did not help him to cure it.” – (Page 45)
“Eccentricity… It’s the justification of all aristocracies. It justifies a leisured classes and inherited wealth and privilege and endowments and all the other injustices of that sort. If you’re to do anything reasonable in this world, you must have a class of people who are secure, safe from public opinion, safe from poverty, leisured, not compelled to waste their time in the imbecile routines that go by the name of Honest Work.” – (Page 50)
“After all, what is reading but a vice, like drink or venery or any other form of excessive self-indulgence? One reads to tickle and amuse one’s mind; one reads, above all, to prevent oneself thinking.” – (Page 70)
“You’re in time to answer a question,” said Mr. Scogan. “We were arguing whether Amour were a serious matter or no. What do you think? Is it serious?” “Serious?” echoed Ivor. “Most certainly.” “I told you so,” cried Mary triumphantly. “But in what sense serious?” Mr. Scogan asked. “I mean as an occupation. One can go on with it without ever getting bored.” “I see,” said Mr. Scogan. “Perfectly.” “One can occupy oneself with it,” Ivor continued, “always and everywhere. Women are always wonderfully the same. Shapes vary a little, that’s all.” – (Page 74-5)
“Since the war we wonder at nothing. We have created a Caesarean environment and a host of Little Caesars has sprung up. What could be more natural?” – (Page 77)
“One is always alone in suffering; the fact is depressing when one happens to be the sufferer, but it makes pleasure possible for the rest of the world.” – (Page 77)
“The rising sun touched their faces. It was all extremely symbolic; but then, if you choose to think so, nothing in this world is not symbolical.” – (Page 102)
“One suffers so much,” Denis went on, “from the fact that beautiful words don’t always mean what they ought to mean.” – (Page 104)
“You are too much preoccupied with mere things and ideas and people to understand the full beauty of words. Your mind is not a literary mind.” – (Page 106)
“The technical, verbal part of literature is simply a development of magic. Words are man’s first and most grandiose invention.” – (Page 106)
“In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred women are as passive and innocent as the strawberries and cream.” – (Page 109)
“Whenever the choice has had to be made between the man of reason and the madman, the world has unhesitatingly followed the madman.” – (Page 111)
“If you want to get men to act reasonably, you must set about persuading them in a maniacal manner.” – (Page 112)
“It is humiliating to find how impotent unadulterated sanity is.” – (Page 112)
“Like every other good thing in this world, leisure and culture have to be paid for. Fortunately, however, it is not the leisured and the cultured who have to pay.” – (Page 116-17)
“Nature, or anything that reminds me of nature, disturbs me; it is too large, too complicated, above all too utterly pointless and incomprehensible.” – (Page 118)
“Would he ever be able to call his brain his own? Was there, indeed, anything in it that was truly his own, or was it simply an education?” – (Page 122)
“The trouble with the people and events of the present is that you never know anything about them.” – (Page 142)
“How gay and delightful life would be if one could get rid of all the human contacts! Perhaps, in the future, when machines have attained to a state of perfection – for I confess that I am, like Godwin and Shelley, a believer in perfectibility, the perfectibility of machinery – then, perhaps it will be possible for those who, like myself, desire it, to live in a dignified seclusion, surrounded by the delicate attentions of silent and graceful machines, and entirely secure from any human intrusion. It is a beautiful thought.” – (Page 142)
“Adventures and romance only take on their adventurous and romantic qualities at second-hand. Live them, and they are just a slice of life like the rest.” – (Page 144)
Like most readers, I’ve always been interested in the cover designs of books, especially novels. As the old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but let’s be honest, we all do to a degree. And publishers know this, spending great time and effort trying to come up with an eye-catching cover. Sometimes this cover very clearly reflects some part of the story, but sometimes it gives no apparent information about what is contained within.
To this end I’ve been creating collages of the cover designs of Lost Generation novels. So far they’ve mostly just been on social media, but I’d like to start sharing them here as well.
Some other things I think about when it comes to novel cover designs –
Is this a good choice for the novel?
Is this design specifically targeting a certain audience?
Does this design reflect the time. The novel was actually published in or is it more reflective of the present day?
How has the cover art used for this novel changed over time?
With all that in mind I like to start this series by looking at some of the great covers that have been used for Sherwood Anderson‘s classic 1919 novel-in-stories, Winesburg, Ohio. Although Anderson is technically too old to be considered a part of the Lost Generation, his work, particularly this one, had a huge influence on slightly younger writers, especially Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner.
Let’s take a look –
These covers span a number of years, but all have clearly focused on the fact that the stories revolve around a small town. Really, there hasn’t been a whole lot of change to these designs, but as you can see some choose to focus on much broader views while others bring it down to the individual level, all of which I find super interesting.
Goodreads lists a total of 607 editions of Winesburg, Ohio, and if you want to see more go here. And if you’re considering purchasing the book and would like to help us out at the same time, you can purchase the book through our shop(affiliate link) on Bookshop.org.
One thing that I really like to do on this site is hunt down original recordings of Lost Generation authors reading their own work. It wasn’t until I started this blog that I realized I had never heard any of these authors in their own voice. And so today here’s a great recording of John Steinbeck reading his short story “Johnny Bear.” This recording, made in 1953, was part of a full length album that included his short story “The Snake” on the other side.
“Johnny Bear” was originally published as “The Ears of Johnny Bear” in the September 1, 1937 edition of Esquire. (If you happen to have a subscription to Esquire you can read the original here. That same issue included F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story “The Long Way Out.” Not bad company.)
Set in the small California town of Loma, within the Salinas Valley, “Johnny Bear” deals with an idiot savant who was able to recall things that he hears perfectly, even if he doesn’t understand what they mean. He uses this trait in order to beg for his favorite thing at the local bar, whiskey. Through his recitations the town’s secrets become public knowledge, upending everything they believed about themselves.
It’s really great to hear Steinbeck read his own words, but I do have to say the reading is a bit stilted. It sounds like it might’ve been done in one take and not edited at all. Still, I think it’s well worth a listen – check it out below.