Hi there, faithful reader. In the spirit of perhaps writing more and also because I think things like this ought to be talked about in the same breath as the books themselves, this is the beginning of a new semi-regular column about (you guessed it) cover art! We all buy books based on their covers… the adage just simply isn’t true. I’ve found some incredible books by going on a cool-looking cover alone – and I’m also a sucker for rejacketing and making a whole series look nice and neat.
Today, we’re looking at one of my favorite authors and an unexpected rejacketing campaign: Bret Easton Ellis.
It all started, not-a-little-annoyingly, with Imperial Bedrooms. A book that has a lot of problems… but the cover art wasn’t one of them. It was sharp, stark, and witty – and, for whatever reason, seemed to fit perfectly inside Ellis’ strange literary universe. What it didn’t fit with, of course, was the rest of the Ellis books. Indeed, none of them really seemed to fit together – although the UK editions had made a half-hearted attempt with somewhat bland covers that didn’t really capture the spirit of the novels. I’m not necessarily a believer in one author’s work needing to match – after all, most of them write different novels and aren’t writing with any sort of continuity – but Ellis has (not unlike Stephen King) created a parallel universe in his books and the characters all bounce around, popping up here or there. Patrick Bateman has a cameo in The Rules of Attraction, a book that also features Clay, the protagonist from Less Than Zero and Imperial Bedrooms. Glamorama has secondary characters from Attraction and Psycho in the starring roles (one of whom was swiped from Jay McInerney, which causes another meta-textual issue that I don’t have time for). The Informers has cameos everywhere. And Lunar Park is, of course, the strange meta-fictional story featuring a character named Bret Easton Ellis but also (possibly) some of the characters from his novels. There’s a sense of connection between them all and thus I wanted to see a campaign that would connect them.
My wish has been granted.
Picador has done a fantastic job at creating a perfect redesign, starting with the theme of the cover for Imperial Bedrooms. They first hit Less Than Zero – with a cover that I didn’t (and still don’t) necessarily love, mostly because I feel like they took a picture of Thom Yorke and blacked the face out and that makes me feel weird. But the campaign carried on and made fitting representations of all of the other books, complete with a garish neon backdrop. Check these out, starting with the paperback for Bedrooms (a color decision I wholeheartedly approve of):
Interestingly, it was The Informers that sold me on the whole series. That and, I suppose, American Psycho. I’ve yet to really love any cover I’ve seen for that book but this one just… spoke to me. It made sense. It was better than the portrait of the stockbroker or the odd painting from the original. And The Informers, with that fiery red… Ellis has never made claims to literary excellence, despite having been one of the most important authors of the late 20th Century, and I think these covers meet him somewhere in the middle. They’re trashy as hell – look at that blue on Lunar Park! – but for some reason they’re also refined. They’re intelligent. They’re bold enough to say “so what if I’m trashy? you’re looking – and you like what you see.” A perfect metaphor for Ellis’ novels.
And of course, the kicker? They were designed by Chip Kidd – one of the most talented graphic designers working in the biz today and a man who is always, consistently, stunning. He’s not a bad author either: check out The Cheese Monkeys and The Learners. But anyway, I digress. This is a masterful and fitting redesign of one of my favorite authors. You can be assured that, even though I already have a copy of each of these books, I’ll be picking them up again. Why? Because it’s time I just admitted it: I’m a junkie for a good cover.
Stay tuned for the next The Art of The Cover, which will come at some point probably sooner than later – perhaps looking at the Thursday Next rejacket campaign.