Thursday, 31 May 2007

Night Mail

Apparently, at some point last night after all the regular Peter Owen bloggers had left the office a long awaited delivery snuck in through the letter box. This is the first P.O.P. edition of I Live Under A Black Sun by Edith Sitwell. We had been waiting for it for over a month and imagined that it had been eaten by the voracious bookmunchingmonster that apparently lives in our local sorting office but were relieved to find that in truth, as befits a book written by Dame Sitwell, it was merely planning on making an entrance.

This is a cover from the very first wave of Peter Owen covers - with watercolours and drawings, very fifties in style, rather marvelous in their way. This period was then followed by the sharp graphic designs of Keith Cunningham , then they rather lost way during the eighties and nineties before computers started making everything easier - we think that some of our current book covers are beginning to match the tradition started by books like these. Indeed, there is much wistful talk in the office of going back to the good ol' days of small, beautiful hardbacks but there's plenty of market research to be done.

To get back to I Live Under a Black Sun (The web page seems to have disappeared: a job for tomorrow) the strange ambition of the book is summed up in the foreword by E.S.:

'This novel is founded on the story of Johnathan Swift, Stella and Vanessa. But not only have the details of that story, but also the frame-work (sic), have been changed. I have drawn copiously upon the letters of Jonathan Swift; in some cases the language of the latter has been modernised. The story of the dream in Chapter IX, Part III, was suggested by John Aubrey's tale T.M., Esq.'

What hope for a contemporary writer pitching a novel like this? 'Right, what I've done is written a novel about the love life of Johnathan Swift, right, BUT I've set it during the First World War, right, and it's not really very accurate' But the result is magnificent: dark, brooding and beautiful.

In other news, The Dovegreyreader has discovered joys and pains of Anna Kavan and there is a review of Alfred Douglas in this week's TLS. Which I'll try and put up tomorrow.

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