Another book design of mine (interiors only) which I completed last September for Tachyon and about which I had this to say at the time:
Kafkaesque [is] edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly. It’s a collection of short stories either inspired by Franz Kafka, or with a Kafka-like atmosphere, and features a high calibre of contributions from writers including JG Ballard, Jorge Luis Borges, Carol Emshwiller, Jeffrey Ford, Jonathan Lethem and Philip Roth, and also the comic strip adaptation of The Hunger Artist by Robert Crumb.
The book gained a positive review at SF Site recently, reminding me that I hadn’t written anything about the design. As with some of my other Tachyon work the interiors take their cue from a pre-determined cover by another designer, in this case Josh Beatman. I followed Josh’s type choices (Senator for the titles and headings) and also extended his use of an insect as a recurrent motif. Before I saw the contents I was fairly determined to avoid any further insect imagery but it became apparent that Kafka’s Metamorphosis is a repeated reference in many of the stories.
As for the recurrent “K”, that seemed inevitable given Kafka’s own use of the letter as well as its presence not only in Kafka’s own name but in the names of the editors. The frames were an idea borrowed from (and referring to) Steven Berkoff’s stage adaptation of The Trial in which portable frames serve on the stage as doorways, windows, corridors, picture frames and so on. I was hoping to do more with this idea but (as is often the case) ran out of time to develop it further.
And while we’re on the subject of Tachyon designs, I don’t seem to have mentioned my interiors for a Joe R Lansdale collection, Crucified Dreams, which also appeared last year. This is a hard-boiled anthology of Lansdale’s favourite stories for which I supplied suitably rough-and-tough graphics comprising scanned scalpel blades and lettering assembled from torn newspaper pages. I’m due to start on some new work for Tachyon this week. More about that at a later date.
Continue reading “Kafkaesque”
This week I completed the interior design for a new anthology from Tachyon, Kafkaesque, edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly. It’s a collection of short stories either inspired by Franz Kafka, or with a Kafka-like atmosphere, and features a high calibre of contributions from writers including JG Ballard, Jorge Luis Borges, Carol Emshwiller, Jeffrey Ford, Jonathan Lethem and Philip Roth, and also the comic strip adaptation of The Hunger Artist by Robert Crumb. When I knew this was incoming I rewatched a few favourite Kafka-inspired film and TV works, and belatedly realised I have something of a predilection for these things. What follows is a list of some favourites from the Kafkaesque dramas I’ve seen to date. IMDB lists 72 titles crediting Kafka as the original writer so there’s still a lot more to see.
The Trial (1962), dir: Orson Welles.
Orson Welles in one of his Peter Bogdanovich interviews describes how producer Alexander Salkind gave him a list of literary classics to which he owned the rights and asked him to pick one. Given a choice of Kafka titles Welles says he would have chosen The Castle but The Trial was the only one on the list so it’s this which became the first major adaptation of a Kafka novel. Welles always took some liberties with adaptations—even Shakespeare wasn’t sacred—and he does so here. I’m not really concerned whether this is completely faithful to the book, however, it’s a first-class work of cinema which shows Welles’ genius for improvisation in the use of the semi-derelict Gare d’Orsay in Paris as the main setting. (Welles had commissioned set designs but the money to pay for those disappeared at the last minute.) As well as scenes in Paris the film mixes other scenes shot in Rome and Zagreb with Anthony Perkins’ Josef K frequently jumping across Europe in a single cut. The resulting blend of 19th-century architecture, industrial ruin and Modernist offices which Welles called “Jules Verne modernism” continues to be a big inspiration for me when thinking about invented cities. Kafka has been fortunate in having many great actors drawn to his work; here with Perkins there’s Welles himself as the booming and hilarious Advocate, together with Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider and Akim Tamiroff.
Continue reading “Screening Kafka”