Cover Love: The Haruki Murakami editions from Vintage UK

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 VintageKafka 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.

___________________

‘Cover Love’ offers me the one indulgence of pushing aside the old adage of ‘never judging a book by its cover’, and celebrating with an unadulterated passion, my incurable lust for book cover design.
About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books)

Comments

  1. Bart's Bookshelf (Twitter: bartsbooks)
    says:

    I’d love to say it was some fab bookbloggers reviews that convinced me to pick up some Murakami and give him a go, but it’s more likely it was these covers! Waterstones had a shelf of them and I was waylaid by the pretty!

  2. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
    says:

    Bart – you’re a ‘cover lover’ after my own heart, although like me I know you’d be sure of the author’s credibility before buying, even if a cover is drop-dead gorgeous!

  3. There are some gorgeous book covers around. A great blog that looks at all things related to cover design is The Book Design Review at http://nytimesbooks.blogspot.com/. There are recent posts about some very different covers for the Israeli editions of three Murakami books as well as an image of the French edition of After Dark. For me, though, the UK covers form a highly attractive and wallet-emptying set.

  4. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
    says:

    GC Thank you for your comments and for bringing to my attention the existence of the Book Design Review. I’m actually well aware of the BDR (I spoke of it in my introductory post to ‘Cover Love’), and it occurred to me after I’d posted this first ‘Cover Love’ feature that the BDR had also recently ran a Murakami feature. I winced when I remembered that (because I did read it a couple of weeks ago), but there really was no intention to copy them. I had the three editions I mention above on my shelf, and they were the ones which inspired this first post.

    Anyway I’m glad you agree though. The UK editions are the most ‘drool-ey’ :o)
    Warmest
    Rob

  5. These covers are gorgeous! Miles apart from other Murakami editions. I wish these were available in Canada. I’d be compelled to buy his books more instead of just borrow from the library. :)

  6. These are my favourite Murakami covers. I wish I had all of his books with these editions but they’re hard to find in my country D:

  7. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
    says:

    Claire/Kat – I’ll consider myself lucky then (and I do), to have these covers available to me in the UK

  8. Kat, whatever your country is, you’ll be able to get these Murakami books via The Book Depository, with free shipping to most countries.

    Rob, amongst my collection I have one Murakami you won’t be seeing any time soon outside of Japan. Hear The Wind Sing, which is the first novel in the Trilogy of the Rat. The second was Pinball, 1973, and the third was A Wild Sheep Chase, which itself has a sequel in Dance Dance Dance. The latter was the first Murakami I read, unbeknownst to me it was the fourth in a loose series.

  9. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
    says:

    Stewart, Firstly do you know how many times I’ve used The Book Depository? Never! So I really should!

    Secondly ‘Hear the Wind Sing’. Nice cover, but your in-depth knowledge of Murakami (together with your incredible knowledge on translated works in general) begs the question – Do you ever not read?
    Warmest
    Rob

  10. I absolutely agree – I bought A Wild Sheep Chase and Norwegian Wood just because they were gorgeous! But… there is a reason they say “never judge a book by its cover” and in this case I quickly realized the covers were far more appealing than the content :)

  11. Do I ever not read? All the time. ;-)

  12. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
    says:

    Apples – I’m sorry you weren’t too thrilled with reading Murakami. I know he can be rather a dense author to get to grips with, and he’s not for everyone. Look on the bright side though – you’ve a couple of gorgeous covers to grace your home with :o)

  13. @Stewart: I have a much-thumbed copy of Hear the Wind Sing and I am desperate to find Pinball any ideas?
    P.S new Murakami coming out soon in Japan 1Q84 (sounds like ninteen eighty four in Japanese).

    @Rob: I too covet the UK covers and while I’ve read every single Murakami I am yet to aquire them all (three to go)…My question is this: who designs the Vintage covers? I lov Chip Kidd’s designs but really prefer the UK editions and as I live in Australia I am lucky that these are the only ones I seem to find. P.S. have you seen this?
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_ss_b?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=murakami+haruki+diary

    Cheers

    Cate

  14. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
    says:

    Hi Cate – nice to hear from you. You sound like a TOTAL Murakami fan so it’s great that you dropped by.

    In answer to your question I’m not sure who is ultimately responsible for the design of the Vintage covers. A specific designer is never credited but they always credit the source of photographs and the calligraphy of Ruth Rowland whenever they use it. My guess – it’s their in-house design team who do the work.

    As for the Murakami Diary – yes I have seen it. In fact I just missed out by a couple of minutes in ‘bagging’ a freebie one a few weeks back on Twitter. Arrgghh at the time but such is life I guess.

    Since writing I’ve managed to add another Murakami to my collection – The Elephant Vanishes, which I’m incredibly happy about.

    Anyway good luck with the hunt for Pinball. I hope you find a copy. Drop by again any time and let me (us) know how you got on.
    Warmest
    Rob

  15. Thanks Rob,

    Love the site, I have to say. It really made my day to see someone so passionate about what I call “my world”. Really refreshing to read an erudite ‘book blog’ for a change – thank you!

    Yes, I am a very big Murakami fan. I lived in Japan for six years and fell in love with his magical realism and Jay Rubin’s lyrical translations (not to mention Vintage’s covers). He is not all I read, though…

    I am very keen to take up the ’50 novels in a year’ challenge (piece of cake seeing as I am a secondary school English teacher and have lots of school holidays and need to read something other than teen fiction when not in term time). I have tried NaNoWriMo once before but, alas, I am more of an editor than a creator, I’m afraid – but best of luck!

    Thanks again for this wonderful place…I will be back often.

    Cheers

    Cate

    P.S. Tell your daughter Katy that the Twighlight series is huge with girls her age in Australia and also (secretly) with their English teachers ;). She might also be interested in Australian author Sonya Hartnett, a little off the wall but intriguing…

  16. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
    says:

    Cate – You really do say the nicest things. Thank you so much for your kind words about the site!

    The ’50 Novel challenge’ is more a personal thing, not intended for anyone to join per se, but feel free to do as you wish. If you do I’d love to hear what your 50 choices are going to be, especially with you being an English teacher – I know I could learn a lot about choices in literature from a guru like you.

    NaNoWriMo I gave up on last year. I didn’t enjoy the forced time-limit, even though it were only for a rough first draft. If I’m ever going to write in a fictional sense (which I still don’t think I’m anywhere near ready for), I think I’d rather progress at my own pace. We’ll see but I’m disappointed to hear that you don’t consider yourself good enough to create. You’re a teacher of the craft for goodness sake! :o)

    Anyway I’m writing ‘on the hop’ so speak soon and thanks again for putting a smile on my face.
    Warmest
    Rob
    P.S. I passed on your comments to Katy to which she gave in response a typical teenage grunt of gratitude and thanks.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] of birds in flight by Pavel Banka (no doubt extensively Photoshopped) that first drew me in. As RobAroundBooks.com notes, the cover, and the associated set of covers from publisher Vintage UK for the other Murakami [...]

  2. [...] should set the mood for the story (the Vintage Murakami Covers a perfect [...]

Speak Your Mind

*