Sunday, December 07, 2008

Golden Wavy Boy

Whenever I'm in a used bookstore, I check to see if they have any old Time Reading Program Special Editions lying around. In the sixties and seventies, Time put out a number of books with strange, nauseous, beautiful covers, many of which were designed by Leo and Diane Dillon. (Here's a great Locus interview.) The Dillons are a husband-wife illustration team who rose to prominence largely on the merits of the sci-fi covers they designed for Ace Specials back in the day (gallery #1, gallery #2); these covers earned them the 1971 Hugo. They later won back-to-back Caldecotts in 1976 and 1977 for their work on Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears and Ashanti to Zulu. I first encountered their art when I inadvertently stole a Time Edition of The Member of the Wedding from my high-school library when I was a teenager; its cover was a sort of thickly-textured seasick tapestry that I found completely mesmerizing. Anyway, today was a lucky day; I found their 1964 edition of H.M. Tomlinson's The Sea and the Jungle. The cover was designed by the Dillons and is comprised of four panels of a woodcut--that is, it appears to be; I'm not really sure how it was accomplished:



Isn't that nice? I'm obsessed with it. Here's a few more--I don't know if they were all designed by the Dillons, as information about these books is a bit lacking on the internet, but I believe a majority of them were: The Immense Journey; All the King's Men; Logbook for Grace; The Horse's Mouth; The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; A Coffin for King Charles; Poet's Choice; Notre-Dame de Paris; Mister Johnson; The Forest and the Sea; and The Natural--this last one appears in a blog post actually making fun of it.

11 comments:

Valerie Loveland said...

Thanks for this information, now I can say "Dillon covers" and sound smart instead of "you know, those cool weird book covers."

RHE said...

In my experience (or maybe just in my hands) those books disintegrate as you read them. They come unbound faster than Prometheus, and you don't even get to feed a vulture in the process. Must be some special Time-Life Glue Solvent in my fingertips, but I find I have none of those volumes left on my bookshelves, because none survived my reading.

Tricia said...

Yay information!

You're right, Richard, the Special Editions are poorly bound. I buy them just to keep; I have other reading copies that are more flexible.

Admiral Farragut said...

It actually takes two people to plan and execute these designs? What, does one hold the crayon whilst t'other moves the paper around on the table?

Oh, and I followed your link to the sludge-colored cover of "The Forest and the Sea" and noted that this epistle on mankind and ecology is offered in an imitation-leather cover. Is this supposed to be irony? "Cause it's working for me.

RHE said...

A good cultural affairs critic would have a field day with the Time-Life ethos behind this: books with distinguished titles which are made to look good, but which cannot survive being read.

Tricia said...

CEASE HATING TERRIBLE ADMIRAL

Then again, Richard, it's not like I'm reading these books in their freshest incarnations. By the time I get to them they're already 30, 40 years old.

Admiral Farragut said...

I do not hate, fair Tricia. How can I hate when my artwork graces no award-winning disintigrating book covers? Some days I merely find the world more amusing than others. You've got to admit that an imitation-leather (i.e. plastic) cover on a book about ecology does have a touch of the ironic. Other than that, I wish this artistic duo nothing but the best.

rachel said...

i just came upon this blog (copiously), through not-a-finger. and it's fantastic, as you well know. but if you let not-a-finger lapse into oblivion, i may die.

Tricia said...

Come home, Admiral, all is forgiven!

But Rachel, this IS Not-A-Finger, only fancy and with a new name and marginally fewer handjobs! And more art! I should probably update Not-A-Finger to that effect someday.

Searching said...

Came across this blog entry while searching for info on the Time Reading Program series
--- (in pre-internet days I once wrote a letter to Time, thinking maybe there'd be someone there with enough scholarly interest and generosity to make a high-class, authoritative, data-crammed reply; that didn't happen, but who needs them now, now we have the crazy wonderful web)
--- and I wanted to say thanks for the large and beautiful scans of the Dillons' carven cover. Wonderful as the Dillons were and are, they were responsible for only 8 covers of the 106 (I think) TRP titles. The 8 -- according to Rodrigo Torres' online bibliography -- are Kabloona, King Solomon's Ring, Till We Have Faces, Member of the Wedding, The Sea and the Jungle, The Greek Way, Reveille in Washington 1860-1865, and The Reason Why. Thanks again for the nice big look at those 'Sea and the Jungle' panels.

Richard

Tricia said...

Thank you so much for your informative comment, Richard. I tried to discern which covers were designed by the Dillons by doing a targeted Amazon search for their names, but something must have gone awry! I love the internet like whoa, and it usually comes through for me, so I was surprised to find so little comprehensive information about the Time-Life series when I searched.