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Friday, March 06, 2009

The (Several) Brief Wondrous Li(ves) of Oscar Wao

Interesting to see the design evolution of one of my favorite books of the last few years, Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao:

Rodrigo Corral's modern, serious, and literary US design, strong enough to make it from hardcover to trade paper to mass market paperback:

The UK trade paper edition, which turns the title into the fuku (curse) that hovers over and eventually crushes Oscar:

And the UK mass market paperback, which aims somewhat lower than these others by reaching for the geeky, sci-fi-reading (but admittedly, pretty friggin' cute) part of Oscar's life.

(Call me out if I've gotten any of the attributions for the different editions wrong.)


Adriana said...

Also one of my favorite recent books and I gotta say it was the design that grabbed me enough to read it (yes I often judge books by their cover first, isn't that the point of this blog?). I probably wouldn't have been as interested if I'd seen either of the other two.

Tropolist said...

The third cover turned me off so completely. I like the first two much more, although the rounded font on the US cover drove me crazy when I first saw it two years ago and still drives me crazy now.

Johnny said...

I like these covers fine, but I wish they'd just used the great Los Brothers Hernandez illustration that ran with the original novella-length version of the story that ran in the New Yorker ten years ago. (Unfortunately, I can't find the picture online.)

T-Bone said...

i usually hate rounded typefaces too, but that first cover is pretty damn sweet.


the first and second covers -- definitely preferred!

Anonymous said...

It may sound strange, but I often use your blog here as an idea farm for what new books are out that I might want to read -- books on all sorts of topics come up here, and I have a wide range of interests and a curious nature. You've referenced several that I read and later enjoyed.

Anyway, I first passed up Oscar Wao, partly because the blurbs/reviews sounded uninteresting and partly because the cover kind of turned me off. I reacted negatively to the blood spatter and I didn't "get" the wings. After it won the Pulitzer, I picked it up at the library, began reading, and was immediately drawn in. I later bought it, after I'd finished it, because I haven't loved a book this much in years.

Whether or not the US cover is a good piece of graphic art, it certainly didn't sell me the book. I'm not sure if I like it even now, but I have no idea what else should have been on the cover! The second image feels more right. As you say, the title looms over the boy, and that captures something of the story that the first cover, for me, does not.

Andrea said...

Whoops -- I'm Andrea ( That's my comment above. I dislike anonymous posts, but I forgot to preview my comment