Covering Genet


While writing Monday’s post I came across this series of new cover designs for the most recent Faber editions of Genet’s novels. I hadn’t seen these before but I liked the way they look as a set. Jonathan Pelham is the designer. At first glance the covers infringe one of my personal rules for cover design, that you should try and create something that couldn’t easily be used on another book by a different author; this is more of a challenge when a design is minimal or tending towards abstraction as these are. But Genet’s covers from British publishers have veered from the featureless (the Anthony Blond hardbacks of the 1960s) to the bizarrely random (the 1971 Penguin edition of Miracle of the Rose with a detail from Max Ernst’s Europe After the Rain—see below), so anything that looks this smart and consistent is a plus. I still like the series of paperbacks that Panther published in the early 1970s (also below) but they only did three of the books, with the Rubens typeface being a carry over from the Grove Press hardbacks designed by Roy Kuhlman. The new editions from Faber also feature new introductions by Neil Bartlett (Funeral Rites), Terry Hands (Miracle of the Rose), Jon Savage (Querelle of Brest), and Ahdaf Soueif (The Thief’s Journal).





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City of Night by John Rechy


City of Night (1963), Grove Press.

Surprising to read this week that John Rechy’s pioneering novel of gay nightlife in America is now fifty years old. The attitude and style of Rechy’s work looks so much to the 1970s that it seems out-of-place in a time when writing about male hustlers was almost as risky as being one. Charles Casillo revisits the novel for the Los Angeles Review of Books, and also talks to the author. Casillo turns up again at Lambda Literary to ask a collection of other writers for their recollections about Rechy and his work.

The usual curiosity impelled me to go looking for City of Night cover designs. The results are disappointing, there having been little advance from the Grove Press first edition (above) which I’m guessing was a Roy Kuhlman design. (And while we’re looking at it, Taxi Driver aficionados might note the “Fascination” sign.)


The Grove Press paperback (left) reused the photo, and set the template for many subsequent editions, all of which could easily be mistaken for crime novels. The early editions play safe but that solitary figure does at least communicate the book’s emphasis on loneliness. Later editions offer lazy variations on the words “city” and “night” with no indication that the book is also about sex.


The Panther (UK) paperback from 1969 is the edition I’m most familiar with, and it’s a surprise again to find that this cover design is still the best I’ve seen. Panther had a run of great cover designs from the late 60s into the 1970s, many of them uncredited. They also published a fair amount of gay fiction in editions that were smart and unsensational. This cover exemplifies the approach: sexy, direct, blurb-free, and with that enticing list of Joyce-like neologisms (“youngmen” is a Rechy trademark) on the back. Goodreads has a handful of other designs.


Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
William E. Jones on Fred Halsted
California boys by Mel Roberts

Weekend links 135


Two Grove Press covers by Roy Kuhlman. From Arden Kuhlman Riordan’s Pinterest page collecting her father’s cover designs.

• “When people asked me what boylesque was, I’d say I’m doing burlesque and I have a penis,” said Mr. Ferguson.

Sequence5: 42 tracks of new, atmospheric/ambient music. A free download in a variety of formats.

The trailer for Jimmy’s End, the forthcoming film by Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins.

As a porn performer, I can say from experience and with confidence that I’ve never been objectified by other performers. Nor have I been objectified by viewers. At least not in a way that seemed to confuse them into thinking I was an object. What happens instead is that I shift in and out of object-hood. Athletes do this too—they engage with their bodies for a specific task. At the end of the game or the shoot, the context changes.

Conner Habib on The Virtues of Being an Object

Secret Weapons (1972), David Cronenberg’s lost TV movie resurfaces.

Joseph Burnett reviews Nude, the new album by The Irrepressibles.

Over a third of e-readers are used just once before being set aside.

The guarded, the cautious, the small-scale, the modest, the well-crafted—such books may be rewarded (in our own time, at the national level), but they are rarely preserved. They are not preserved because guardedness, caution, smallness, modesty, and craft can be replaced in any given generation. What is irreplaceable is excess: Of verbal kinesis, religious intensity, intellectual voracity.

Amit Majmudar on Entertainment and Excess: The Great Literary Audiences

Miniature Book Interviews with Louis Wain Bound by Hand.

A Tour Inside Salvador Dalí’s Labyrinthine Spanish Home.

• Horror fiction should be deep, not cheap, says Nina Allan.

• RIP Peter Kuhlmann aka Pete Namlook

More is More by Alex Trochut

The Useless Web

Lost In The Sea (1992) by Sequential (Pete Namlook & DJ Criss) | Angel Tech (1994) by Bill Laswell & Pete Namlook | Yenlik (Part II) (1996) by Burhan Öçal & Pete Namlook

Emil Cadoo


Untitled (1963).

One of a small number of pictures from a recent exhibition of work by American photographer Emil Cadoo (1926–2002) whose nude studies and often homoerotic themes were controversial in America of the Fifties and Sixties but welcomed in France, as was often the case at that time.

In April 1964, all 21,000 copies of the April/May issue no.32 of the American magazine Evergreen Review – containing (among others) texts by Norman Mailer, Jean Genet, William Burroughs, Bryon Gysin, Michael McClure, Karl Shapiro (a who’s who of the day’s practitioners of perceived outrage), and an erotic photo-essay by Cadoo – was seized by the police whilst it was still being bound. The edition had been deemed ‘obscene’ by the county’s district Attorney, whose particular disapproval was leveled at Cadoo. It took the special intermission of Edward Steichen, who compared the images to the work of Auguste Rodin “the greatest living sculptor of our time”, to obtain the condemnation of three judges of this action as ‘unconstitutional’, and to return the magazine to the public domain. (More.)

Cadoo favoured the double-exposure to achieve painterly or (for want of a better word) “poetic” effects, and some of these photos were used on book jackets by Grove Press (also the publishers of Evergreen Review), among them this Genet title which I posted a couple of years ago. More of Cadoo’s work can be found on various gallery sites but there’s no dedicated site unfortunately.


Photo by Emil Cadoo; design by Roy Kuhlman (1963).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Penguin Labyrinths and the Thief’s Journal
Un Chant d’Amour by Jean Genet