Call#: Fine Arts Library NA7595.T59 D476 1996
Call#: [z] Lost copy. 728.84 C656
A 1999 article exploring the controversy behind the censorship of Lolita. Chronicles its initial printing in France, followed by its two-year ban shortly thereafter, and ultimately its overwhelming success in the U.S. following its 1958 publication:
"Lolita" was an enormous success, the first book since "Gone With the Wind" to sell 100,000 copies in the first three weeks of publication. The lack of outrage over the book in America might be attributed to the tenor of the times: sex, and even teen sexuality, was 'in.' Elvis Presley was gyrating to the top of the pop charts and films like "Blackboard Jungle" were glamorizing youth and even juvenile delinquency. Parents were uneasy, but they had more glaring affronts to middle-class values to worry about. "Pedophile" was not a term one read in the morning newspaper. A cynic might add that "Lolita" is a complex and often tricky book, and that only the most fanatical Philistine, intent on ferreting out every incidence of filth, was likely to read it to the end.
Essay regarding censorship history of Lolita, including original publishing and impetus for early controversy. Relevant portion includes:
The novel might never have drawn the censors' attention had not Graham Greene selected it as one of the three best books of the year in the 1955 Christmas issue of the Sunday Times. Immediately, John Gordon, the editor of the very popular Sunday Express, took Graham Greene to task in a bitter article which really marked the beginning of the Affaire Lolita: "Without doubt it is the filthiest book I have ever read," wrote Gordon. "Sheer unrestrained pornography... Anyone who published it or sold it here would certainly go to prison.
ACLU response to 1997 censorship hearings in Oklahoma. Relevant portion includes:
"There is nothing prurient about The Tin Drum," Bertin said. "If the child pornography laws can be applied to The Tin Drum, then Lolita is off limits too, along with pictures of some fertility rites in other cultures, pictures of ancient Greek vases, and some paintings by the renowned artist Balthus. The First Amendment requires room for works of serious artistic, historical, or educational merit, even if they involve sexually suggestive imagery involving minors. The child pornography laws are intended to prevent sexual abuse of children, not to stifle artistic expression or rewrite history."
Essay published by Connecticut College regarding Nabokov's politics in his novels. Interesting and insightful quotes regarding Lolita, including:
It was an interesting thing to do. Why did I write any of my books, after all? For the sake of the pleasure, for the sake of the difficulty. I have no social purpose, no moral message; I've no general ideas to exploit, I just like composing riddles with elegant solutions. (SO 16)
Brief history of the Penguin publishing house, including statement on Lolita and censorship:
1958: Putnam publishes Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov, unleashing a storm of controversy. Banned by public libraries in some American cities—and officially banned by the government of France--the book becomes a best-seller. Along with Norman Mailer's Deer Park, published by Putnam in 1955, Lolita is a landmark victory against the threat of censorship.
Title: "On Telling/Selling a Book by Its Cover"
Author Corinne Katz explores the question: "What picture can help sell a thousand books?" (179) Photgraphs, she explains, have many uses; Katz is here concerned with their usefulness as a marketing tool. As she explains, "Different readings, conventions of representation, and institutional settings intersect on a book cover; a cover is a marketing device, an aesthetic production, and a representation that may relate to a book's content" (179). Katz provides three ways to understand book covers: Telling as Allegorical Narrative; Telling as Categorizing; and Telling as Identity and Lure. These three headings provide a useful matrix for considering the various uses of book covers.
Hans Schmoller Essay: "The Paperback Revolution"
Schmoller outlines the history of the paperback, tracing the tradition leading to the first paperback publications in 1935 as well as the innovations and changes up through the 1970s. A discussion explicitly about book cover design does not arise until the last two pages of the essay, but Schmoller puts forth an interesting introduction to the topic. He discusses the role of the cover designer, whose "problem is this: a cover design should reflect, or be relevant to, the contents and character of the book; it should appeal to, or intrigue, the potential buyer; it should be recognisable as a member of a family (a group of volumes by the same author, for instance, or a series of books on related subjects); it should be easily identified as coming from a publisher proud of his imprint..."(317) The list of requirements continues extensively. Although Schmoller does not present an exhaustive discourse on the necessities of cover design, he does introduce a number of elements to consider, providing a firm framework.
Essay: "Book Covers"
This essay provides a brief description of Edward Gorey's career, with the emphasis on his extensive book cover designs. In 1953, he accepted a position at Anchor/Doubleday, doing pasteups and lettering. Before he left the company in 1960, he had designed approximately fifty book covers. Author Steve Heller describes the importance of these works. "These illustrated covers comprise a small but significant chapter in the history of paperback cover design and in the legacy of the white-bearded, fur-coated man who made them. All but forgotten today, these covers established a visual personality for a company that was founded to reprint many of the world's classic texts, some of which were previously published in paperback versions during the late 1930s and 1940s, when virtually all mass-market books were adorned with prurient covers designed to pander to the voyeuristic reader" (71-2) Gorey's covers were essential to the success of Anchor's paperbacks, as they established a distinct identity for the company; the artist's style was more mature and refined that that featured on pulp fictions, and it was idiosyncratic, and therefore remained in the viewer's consciousness.
Jason Epstein, a powerhouse in the literary industry, looks at the crisis facing the book industry and anticaptes the tremendous changes that will arise. "Many valuable books - most, in fact - are not meant to be best-sellers, and these tend to be slighted in the triage of contemporary publishing and bookselling" (13). In other words, with the increasing attention to blockbuster publishing, even though a wide variety of books continues to be published, only those with great selling potential receive much specialized attention from the publishing house. There has been a critical shift from the days in which publishing a best seller was a rare event (Epstein likens it to winning the lottery) to today's market, in which major publishing houses are bestseller factories.
Epstein recounts his role in the transformation of paperbacks, from cheaply made drugstore pulp fiction, to the higher quality editions of old favorites that we are familiar with today. A key moment in the changing nature of book covers occurred in 1944, when Kathleen Windsor's best-selling Forever Amber was promoted by adorning the book with a glamorous portrait of the author.
Technology, of course, is the impetus for change in almost any industry, and the publishing world is no different. Epstein describes the shifts in business practices as a result of technology - specifically, the internet. It was a big step when stores' inventories could be linked to computers; but now the computers are the only interface for many stores, such as Amazon.com. Epstein and his peers in publishing try to anticipate the next step.
Danielle St-Laurent explores the evolution of spy novel covers, grounding the essay in an anecdote explaining the intrigue of first seeing an attractive man pick up a thriller with a pin-up girl on the cover. St-Laurent examinesthe critical shift in the roles of women on the covers of spy novels over the course of the 20th century.
She references Klimt and Muncha as marking "the beginnings of the use of women in advertising and, by extension, on the covers of spy novels" (277). Many early spy novels covers featured men as the primary subject, with women in various states of undress relegated to the background. Even as women came to the fore of the covers in the 1930s and 1940s, a clear subjugation of the female gender remained; hieratic ideals (with their roots in Egyptian iconography) such as larger and darker-skinned male figures continued to be employed.
Over time, the covers evolved further, with women depicted in minimal clothing, and, often, fully nude [N.B., St-Laurent examines covers in French Canada, where there is less prudity regarding nudity]. A number of other conventions come into play as well: almost all the women are young (under 30), white, depicted frontally to emphasize primary sex characteristics. Furthermore, the women, almost without exception, are depicted with a gun, and gaze beyond the scope of the cover, thus enlarging the pictorial space to envelop the viewer.
Walker and Chaplin walk through the theory and history of Visual Studies. They begin with an exploration of the notion of culture, particularly as a foil to nature. The notion of culture, they argue, is inextricably linked to what the economy allows and, perhaps more importantly, deems necessary, allowing the members of a society to establish a hierarchical pattern. Now, however, "culture" is increasingly used to describe any aspect of daily life. Next, the concept of the "visual" is explored, both in how it is sensorally experienced, and what the repercussions of this perception are.
Chapter four's discussion of theory and its various manifestations is particularly interesting, as it explores not only self-conscious theory (e.g., philosophers and people who fancy themselves theorists) but also theory-as-byproduct; that is, theory that developed more organically. "In sum, there are not only theories of art, but also theories for art; theory-informed art, and even theories as art" (62). This is an especially helpful screen for considering why book covers are designed as they are.
The chapter entitled "Production, Distribution and Consumption" has a helpful explanation and description of consumer models, and examines the theories behind the design and distribution of products. In the following chapter, they examine the roles of institutions in creating various products designed to perpetuate their ideals. They explain: "in the case of large, complexly structured arts and media institutions employing or commissioning teams of specialists to produce films, televesion programmes, etc., the influence of the institutions on the content, form and ideological agenda of the final product is likely to be harder to judge because of the many functionarires and levels of mediation involved" (94).
The notion of looking and voyeurism is also explored. This is a critical concept when considering the "why" of book covers; people's selections of books mirrors their interests, and the visual to which they are drawn is an immediate indicator. Therefore, one can extrapolate from the text, that selecting a book by its cover is a sort of narcisistic voyeurism.