For this inaugural ‘Cover Love’ post I’m focusing on a series of books whose covers have seduced me for quite some time. They’re the covers used by UK Publisher Vintage (an imprint of Random House), for their series of books by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. These covers may have been around for a while now (the earliest being The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle published in 1999) but they still remain as fresh and exciting now as they did when first launched. Most of that freshness undoubtedly comes from the minimalist, uncluttered simplicity of the covers. They possess a zen-like quality that seems to solicit the same feeling of calmness and serenity that one gets from sitting in front of a Japanese rock garden; no doubt a purposeful implementation to mirror the cultural identity of both the content of the novels and their author. However the clever thing is that these covers don’t feel wholly oriental in nature. There’s something about them, perhaps the choice of typeface(s), that still give the covers a ‘seasoning’ of Western style, making them all the more appealing to Vintage’s target UK audience.
The covers are certainly appealing to me of course, and they satisfy my insatiable ‘cover lust’ to a large degree. I own three Murakami titles published by Vintage – Kafka on the Shore, A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance Dance Dance (as shown above), and I adore them dearly (and that’s before I’ve even read them :o)). What’s not clear from the ‘stock shots’ of the covers though, is how effective the embossed styling of the lettering for the author’s name is, or indeed how sumptuous the metallic lettering used on some of the titles are. There is a predominant calligraphic element in the titles, and this is down to renowned lettering artist Ruth Rowland, and I think her superlative talent adds greatly to the overall look and feel of the covers.
I’m not completely bowled over by every cover in the series – some I like more than others, and these are the ones that are generally the most minimalist in design i.e. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Dance Dance Dance and A Wild Sheep Chase. I just seem more drawn towards them. However, the cover that stands out as my absolute favourite, the one that really makes me really go mmmmmmm, is one that I’m also fortunate to own – Kafka on the Shore (which is kind of ironic given that I’m not a huge lover of cats :o)). I find the cover for ‘Kafka’ breathtakingly divine, and yes ‘coverly strokeable’ :o), but I’m not altogether sure why. It may be because of its straightforward and simple design! It may be because of the glorious greenish prominence of the cat’s eyes! Or it may even be down to the luxuriousness of Rowland’s calligraphic script, which is set off beautifully by its ‘jacket’ of metallic copper? Regardless of the real reason (which is probably a combination of all three), I love the cover to pieces!
Of course favouring some of these covers more than others means that inevitably there are some, based solely on design, which have ended up at the base of my desirability list, and not surprisingly these are generally the ones that haven’t had the same achromatic background applied to them. There may well be a good reason for this, and I think I may be able to surmise why, at least with a couple of these titles. The most obvious is the latest Murakami publication After Dark. No sense in applying a clinically white cover to a title which has to exude a feeling of midnight mystique is there? :o)
And what about The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle? Well it was the first title to be published in the design style for this series. It’s a title that really begs for a ‘white out’ background with a wind-up bird clock-working its way across the stark landscape, but that isn’t what we got. Instead we get a figure darting across the cover (who one assumes represents the novel’s chief protagonist). Could it be that Vintage were still in the experimental stages with the design? I’d say perhaps! :o). Whether good or bad though the Vintage cover for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is infinitely better than the slightly older Harvill Press edition I own, with its cover designed by Chris Shamwana (as shown right); a kind of garish Warhol ‘pop art’ pic of someone’s head and shoulders. Sorry Chris, I’m just not feeling the ‘cover love’ on this one! :o)
Anyway that’s it for this inaugural ‘Cover Love’ post. I hoped you enjoyed it and got a little bit of ‘cover lust’ from it. I’d love to hear your views on these Murakami covers? Are there any other editions whose covers you prefer instead? Whatever you want to say, just drop a comment in the box below.
Note: The links provided in the post commentary and cover images above are direct non-affiliate links to the publisher’s product pages. While you are able to directly purchase any of the titles from these pages, I want to make it clear that these links have been provided simply because I have been discussing this particular publisher. I am in no way trying to influence your purchasing decisions, and encourage you to buy your books anywhere you please.