The plane the plane
August 27, 2011 7:19 PM   Subscribe

This month Penguin launches a redesigned series of six classic titles, called Penguin Ink. But the ‘ink’ is not printers ink, but that of a more visceral kind.
posted by infini (54 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
k, this ink thing has gone too far.
posted by goethean at 7:25 PM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


but could they do Flatland.
posted by clavdivs at 7:39 PM on August 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Because when you see crude prison tattoos, the first thing that comes to mind is Modern Literature.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:19 PM on August 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ink, nothing. I thought they went too far when they released The Little Prince Albert.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:21 PM on August 27, 2011 [16 favorites]


Really? High Fidelity?

Ok. Top five issues with the publishing industry Rob Fleming would have with this marketing ploy.

Seriously though, this just seems...cheap. I can't complain too much if it sells more books, I guess. This just seems like a lame way to do it.

If the industry is going to do something like this, make it more germane to the subject, like expensive editions of a Harry Potter compilation that look like old leather spell books or something. Charge a lot, make your money back tenfold. That I could understand more since it could appeal to bibliophiles and regular fans at the same time, but this is just seems like a product of a lame marketing meeting that went like this: "We need new cover art to bump sales a little. The 18-35 crowd likes tattoos now right? Well, lets do that. Who wants lunch?"

Whatever. I'm glad Penguin's around to publish this stuff, but a marketing campaign based off new cover art unrelated to the books just makes me sad.
posted by chambers at 8:58 PM on August 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh cool, new book cover designs... wait. No. Ugh. Blech. What?
posted by d1rge at 8:58 PM on August 27, 2011


like expensive editions of a Harry Potter compilation that look like old leather spell books or something

These exist and they are damn expensive. Like thousands of dollars for the set.
posted by kenko at 9:11 PM on August 27, 2011


OK, the trendy marketing-ness of this is a little off-putting, but I do like the covers.

I loved "Notes on a Scandal", and this cover is much more fitting for the book than the one on my copy, which is a... photograph of an apple. So someone gets tempted, in this book? Someone is perhaps... known Biblically? Just thuddingly obvious and it has always irritated me, that that cover makes it less likely someone would want to read that excellent book, which contains one of the best villains ever written.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 9:14 PM on August 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


But the ‘ink’ is not printers ink, but that of a more visceral kind.

I was hoping maybe squid.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:25 PM on August 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


Interesting idea. Do not like results.
posted by Glinn at 9:52 PM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


And yeah. What do prison tattoos have to do with anything? Or do you really see no difference?
posted by Glinn at 9:55 PM on August 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


This isn't the first series of Penguin Ink releases, but I think they did better the first time around:
Broom of the System by DFW
posted by R_Kamidees at 10:25 PM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


No book cover annoys me as much as this version of The Crying of Lot 49. It's a MUTED post horn damnit!


MUTED!
posted by drezdn at 10:26 PM on August 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was hoping maybe squid.

I was thinking they'd made the ink out of penguins...
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 11:18 PM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


No book cover annoys me as much as this version of The Crying of Lot 49. It's a MUTED post horn damnit!


MUTED!


The horn on the cover of the first edition is indeed muted.
posted by jamjam at 11:49 PM on August 27, 2011


Not much cop as book covers, but very pretty.

It seems like The Book of Dave cover is the only that's a good stylistic match, and the only one that makes an attempt to engage with/evoke the text.
posted by jack_mo at 12:33 AM on August 28, 2011


Not a designer, but I thought some of those were pretty cool.

I thought this would be some sort of digitized "ink" of sorts or some sort of intense calligraphic font, which, I also would dig, cos I just dig books in all their forms.
posted by Skygazer at 1:50 AM on August 28, 2011


Ed Hardy Presents: Six Classic Penguin Titles
posted by tjenks at 5:52 AM on August 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


I like these. THERE I SAID IT.
posted by Mister_A at 7:01 AM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because when you see crude prison tattoos, the first thing that comes to mind is Modern Literature.

If you can't distinguish between the art on these book covers and crude prison tattoos, I don't know how you manage to distinguish modern literature from Youtube comments.

Here's a link to Penguin's own page about the project, which adds images of several additional covers (my favorite is Pepa Heller's, for The Bone People).
posted by box at 7:25 AM on August 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay, some of these *are* tacky, true, but at the same time, it's a bit fun. A little too pricey, sure, but if it lures some folks to check these books out, I'm for it.
posted by Kitteh at 8:39 AM on August 28, 2011


I would much rather see the reverse: people getting tattoos of classic old school Penguin book covers.

Those would make far better tattoos than old school tattoo designs make book covers.


In fact, some of them would make really, really sweet tattoos.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:45 AM on August 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


The tattoos were very cliche and tired. The form has moved past "I Love Mom" with a heart around the words. Someone should have told that to the artists who were commissioned.
posted by reenum at 12:07 PM on August 28, 2011


Because when you see crude prison tattoos, the first thing that comes to mind is Modern Literature.

Yeah, tattoos are so crude. All done in prison, on criminals by criminals.

And no great works of literature were ever written in or about prison.

What was your point again?
posted by chronkite at 12:53 PM on August 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


@chronkite: Nicely done.
posted by Renoroc at 12:54 PM on August 28, 2011


Is this an indication that tattoos have jumped the shark? (Sheesh, and I haven't even gotten one yet.)
posted by Wordwoman at 1:07 PM on August 28, 2011


I am confused, chronkite. Were those tattoos intended to be compared to the book covers? Because this book cover reminds me more of this sort of tattoo than the images you posted.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:20 PM on August 28, 2011


Well since you recently stated:

"I am not going to compete or compare the merits of an aesthetic as it is taught in the world's most prestigious art academies, using top end materials developed continuously since the Renaissance, vs. an aesthetic that is taught in prisons using a piece of wire and some shoe polish."

you seem to think tattoos are solely a prison thing, and I just want to disabuse you of that notion.

And even if it was a prison thing, would there be some kind of artistic shame in that? Art made under the harshest of circumstances, drawn from memory with the tools available, for and on the disenfranchised and doomed?

Russian prison tattoos are a fascinating subject, and you'll see the entire spectrum of artistic quality if you look for it. But they represent about 1/1000 of what tattooing is about.

There's always going to be marketing people who find artists willing to whore out that Americana/classic tattoo style to sell crap, or in this case books.
posted by chronkite at 2:39 PM on August 28, 2011


I like the Money cover as a tattoo, but not as much as a book cover.
posted by Mister_A at 2:41 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


chronkite, you are arguing against what even you know to be true. A friend of mine did a sociology research paper on hip-hop clothing styles like baggy pants without a belt, hanging below your underwear, or sneakers with no shoelaces, and how they evolved from prison garb and infiltrated pop culture through ex-cons. And you know it's the same with tattoos. People like them specifically because they have the rebellious cachet of ex-cons, crusty old sailors, and circus freaks. When someone sees a heavily tattooed person, their first thought is not going to be "I wonder if he writes novels better than David Foster Wallace?"
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:34 PM on August 28, 2011


That's not why I like tattoos. It's not why lots of people like tattoos.

I would say 'you know it to be true,' but that sounds kind of ridiculous.
posted by box at 4:42 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


"what even you know to be true"

What does that mean, "even me"? Even dumb ol' me? Your friend's research paper on baggy pants trumps my sixteen years of actually doing tattoos for a living?

Assuming every person that gets tattooed does it to be more like the criminals is an astoundingly narrow perspective, so instead of attributing it to "people" or "someone" you should probably just stick to "I".

Also, is there ANYONE you see and wonder if he writes better than David Foster Wallace? Or is it just another way you condescend to tattooed people?
posted by chronkite at 5:07 PM on August 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Penguin has at least had the guts to mess around with the presentation, shape and format of what people think of as 'a book'. From digital projects like We Tell Stories (which I worked on, I admit) to stuff like this collection tying disparate titles together into a series, they're not prepared to admit defeat in the face of Kindle, nor sticking fingers in ears and pretending that the market for printed books is the same as it was ten years ago.

While some of the experiments may be embarrassingly inept failures (the Bill Amberg collection of leatherbound classics neglected to put the name or author of each book anywhere on the cover, making a shelf-ful of them identical and anonymous—released at £50 a title, they were remaindered for £6 each, or less than the price of the equivalent paperback), the general movement is forwards, towards a new and broader acceptance of ways to package a manuscript.
posted by Hogshead at 5:14 PM on August 28, 2011


chronkite, I routinely run into people who write better than DFW. But I live in a city with the most famous writer's workshop in the world. At last count they had 4 Pulitzer-winning authors on staff.

But when I see someone with heavy tattoos around here, the first question that usually springs to mind is "I wonder how much Meth this person does?"
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:19 PM on August 28, 2011


I routinely run into people who write better than DFW

So? I know some alcoholics that draw better than Jackson Pollock. Doesn't mean I think to myself "I wonder if that person can draw better than Jackson Pollock" every time I see a drunk. (Though 90% of the time the answer would no doubt be yes)

When you see a black man do you wonder how many illegitimate kids he has? How many houses he robbed this month?

When you see an old lady do you assume they just sit around and crochet? That they've had eighty straight years of lace doilies and Lawrence Whelk reruns?

I wonder how Cervantes looked during his prison stay. Probably not much like a genius.

I can't believe I actually have to say it in this thread, but even you should know you can't judge a book by its cover.
posted by chronkite at 6:48 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


We're not judging books in this thread. We're judging lame book covers. Seems like most everyone thinks they are a lame gimmick at best, ugly at worst.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:48 PM on August 28, 2011


We're not judging books in this thread.

By saying when you see a tattooed person you see a meth head you're judging people.

I'm no fan of the book covers but it's because I see it as a cheap attempt to cash in on the current mainstream popularity of an ancient, diverse, and sacred art form. (I'd rather see it selling books than cigarettes though.)

You seem to dislike them because tattoos are only for meth heads, whores and murderers (and people who want to be like meth heads, whores and murderers), and thus tattoo-like imagery shouldn't sully the covers of great works of literature like High Fidelity.
posted by chronkite at 10:35 PM on August 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do not like these book covers, then again, I don't much like tattoos that look like these tattoos.

Of course, I notice that when I discuss my feelings on tattoos, people with tattoos get rather upset, so I'm just going to leave it at "this is a stupid marketing idea."
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:58 PM on August 28, 2011


It's going to be a rough day in your life, charlie don't surf, thirty years from now when you need medical attention (or legal assistance, or a spark plug changed, or a cup of coffee poured, or anything fucking else) that puts in you in a position of reliance on another person, and all you can think about is the likelihood that your doctor is a meth addict. Because, as even you know to be true, a lot of younger folks have tattoos nowadays. It says nothing about their criminality, or any attempt to aesthetically identify with a criminal subculture.

Also, the style of art on these covers is not particularly related to "prison tattooing." The books are mostly influenced by traditional/Americana tattooing, which has its roots pretty firmly planted in the sailor and military culture. Prison tattooing is almost always pure black and grey, with occasional use of reds (because checkers are often used to make ink, red is sometimes an option). The limits and technique of shading are also completely different between a home(or prison)made machine and a professional coil tattoo machine. Americana is characterized not only by the themes of the work (panthers, cats, flowers, gypsies, etc) but by the heavy outlines, watercolor shading, bold color, and other effects. The Duncan X cover (The Book of Dave) is somewhat influenced by Russian prison tattooing--as is all of Duncan's work--but even that says very little about criminality. Many of the themes of Russian tattooing speak about unjust imprisonment, innocence, or political or ethnic persecution: hardly themes which celebrate criminality.

There is, obviously, some backlash against traditional tattooing, mostly because it has become really popular in the last 10 or 15 years. The commercialization of Ed Hardy designs is mostly to blame for that (although, as any real tattoo aficionado or collector will tell you, Hardy was an amazing artist and tattooer and it is a real shame that his name has been so tarnished by the popularity of his work as fodder for douchey t shirt designs).

you can consider tattoos to be trashy if you like. But let me say this: I have 2 full sleeves, both hands fairly covered, a full chest piece, and both legs and feet covered with primarily Americana-inspired tattoos. I am a respected and 'normal' person. I am regularly stopped by older ladies saying that the flowers on my arms are beautiful. I have an instant connection to some of the most interesting and storied people on earth. No one has ever thought for a second that any of my work came from prison. I have never been accused of possessing a proclivity for meth. I doubt that anyone worth considering has ever thought of me as trashy. I dress nicely, and I keep an immaculately clean and well-appointed home. I have Pulitzer winners in my immediate family, and most of them write at least as well as DFW.

The point is, none of that means anything. My tattoos are not indicative of any of the qualities of my personality or my life (other than my tendency to do what I think feels right without stopping to consider the opinions of judgmental assholes such as yourself, and my appreciation for recent American history). If you make a judgment about me based on my tattoos, I'd probably rather not have your attention anyway.

Or, to put it another way: do you honestly think that the sweet little 85 year old woman who came into the tattoo shop last week wanted to show solidarity with prisoners by getting her deceased husband's name tattooed on her wrist--along with a little butterfly? It was her first tattoo, and probably her last, and she wept with joy when it was done (not because it hurt, but because it was so beautiful to her). I wonder how much meth she does?




Back to the covers: I like some of the designs. Duncan X is an amazing artist, as are the other artists involved. I do wish the designs had more connection to the books, but the reality is that a LOT of book covers nowadays have no real relevancy. I also hate to see something as historic, storied, and personal as tattooing used to sell a product, but that's just the world we live in. Someday soon, the annoying obsession with traditional tattooing will vanish as quickly as it appeared, and me and the other felons can get back to our meth, murder, and literature.
posted by broadway bill at 11:59 AM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Of course, I notice that when I discuss my feelings on tattoos, people with tattoos get rather upset, so I'm just going to leave it at "this is a stupid marketing idea."

It's not so much the people with tattoos, they seem to like the attention, good or bad. It's mostly the people who get paid to do tattoos that get upset, when people don't buy into these attempts to associate tattoos with literature and fine arts. Unfortunately for them, tattoos will never be able to escape their strongest association.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:06 PM on August 29, 2011


So you're saying that, to the chagrin of tattooers, the art form will never outlive its association with The Holocaust? So, in addition to felons, meth addicts, attention whores, crusty old sailors, and circus freaks, you now want to add the holocaust into the mix. You paint with an amazing brush, I must say.

Even you must realize, of course, that no one other than you makes those associations these days, right? Also, I really doubt that these covers came from some "attempt to associate tattoos with literature and fine arts" from the global community of tattooists and collectors. Furthermore, I really don't think that tattooists need your sympathy over the association that tattoos have with death camps in WWII; like I said, nobody really holds on to that association, and the huge success of the world's top tier of tattooists proves that the craft is not hurting.


I feel compelled to ask you a bunch of questions, but I can see pretty clearly by your above post that you're just trolling, and you never bothered to answer the questions already asked, so I won't bother. Have fun in your life, and for your own sake, don't pause to consider how many people around you have tattoos, and how they are all connected to meth, crime, and the fucking Holocaust.
posted by broadway bill at 4:02 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Godwined!

I just KNEW we were being trolled.

What a jackass.
posted by chronkite at 4:55 PM on August 29, 2011


I'll let you have the last word, chronkite, since you seem to need it so badly. But don't throw godwin at me, you're just admitting you have no response. Just last week, I had to listen to my Jewish ex-girlfriend cry for two hours because her sister got a tattoo, in violation of the mitzvot, and how it was so outrageous because of the Holocaust tattooing. Some people take this stuff seriously.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:45 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I may be mistaken, but I don't think that's how letting someone have the last word works.
posted by box at 7:10 PM on August 29, 2011


Seriously the worst last-word giving ever. And you didn't mention a violation of a sacred spiritual text, you basically said "KNOW WHO ELSE DID TATTOOS? THE NAZIS!". That's pretty much the definition of a Godwin argument. Also, one anecdote from your life hardly proves that The Holocaust is tattoing's "strongest connection." In fact, i have heard countless stories of camp survivors having id tattoos covered with personally meaningful and pretty designs. Would you assume those people to be method addicts?

Charlie, I really would like it if you'd take the time to answer some of my earlier questions. Or, at least come around with a justification for your judgmental attitude. I am genuinely curious. If you or your ex don't find tattoos aesthetically pleasing, that's fine. Crying for hours or assuming criminality because of what amounts to another person's fashion choice is ridiculous and begs for an explanation.
posted by broadway bill at 7:51 PM on August 29, 2011


Meth, not method addicts. Damn autocorrect.
posted by broadway bill at 7:53 PM on August 29, 2011


lol
posted by chronkite at 8:24 PM on August 29, 2011


But the ‘ink’ is not printers ink, but that of a more visceral kind.

This could only mean tattoos in your entrails
posted by grobstein at 9:39 AM on August 30, 2011


I have no idea what I expected when I posted this, thinking (naively) 'oh how cool, and its from Penguin' but it wasn't this thread. Thanks for the overview btw Hogshead!
posted by infini at 9:43 AM on August 30, 2011


Thanks for posting, infini. Tattoo threads never go the way I want them to either.
posted by box at 9:48 AM on August 30, 2011


I liked Waiting for the Barbarians cover in your link, box. I should have dug that up and linked to it as well.
posted by infini at 10:20 AM on August 30, 2011


I also thank you for posting. I might have missed these otherwise and I'm glad i didn't!
posted by broadway bill at 10:44 AM on August 30, 2011


Wow. I don't expect this thread to go like this. Even though I was going negative, I hoped for a discussion about where the line is in marketing between art on the outside cooperating with the art on the inside, and art and cultural trends being co-opted just to make a sale.

I dig tattoos, but it's like styles of music. Some listen to to one kind because it's popular, some for deeper, more meaningful reasons, and the creators of it can be anywhere in between. Also there are people who think it's evil and nothing good can come of it.

If I've leaned anything about tattoos over the years, is that in the first 10 seconds, you lean more about the person who is reacting to the tattoos more than the person wearing them.
posted by chambers at 1:52 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stupid nazi meth-heads.
posted by chronkite at 3:21 PM on September 8, 2011


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