John Bertram
Yuri Leving
Print Books/F & W Media, Blue Ash, Ohio, 2013, English
Nonfiction, Graphic Design
9 x 9 inches, paperback, 256 pages
ISBN: 9781440329869
Suggested Retail Price: $18.00

What should Lolita look like? The question has dogged book-cover designers since 1955, when Lolita was first published in a plain green wrapper. The heroine of Vladimir Nabokov's classic novel has often been shown as a teenage seductress in heart-shaped glasses—a deceptive image that misreads the book but has seeped deep into our cultural life, from fashion to film.

Lolita—The Story of a Cover Girl: Vladimir Nabokov's Novel in Art and Design reconsiders the cover of Lolita. Eighty renowned graphic designers and illustrators (including Paula Scher, Jessica Hische, Jessica Helfand, and Peter Mendelsund) offer their own takes on the book's jacket, while graphic-design critics and Nabokov scholars survey more than half a century of Lolita covers.

Through the lenses of design and literature, Lolita - The Story of a Cover Girl tells the strange design history of one of the most important novels of the 20th century—and offers a new way for thinking visually about difficult books. You'll never look at Lolita the same way again.

Also see our Cover Story by Stephanie Murg on Lolita—The Story of a Cover Girl

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Allison Arieff

I suppose the impossibility of picking the perfect cover for a book that has had so many iconic covers explains the choice of the utterly nondescript text-only, lime-green one they went for. But it was a bad decision because few would pick this up on a whim.

But now that I’ve got that out of the way, Lolita—The Story of a Cover Girl makes up for its surface deficiencies with its interior content (which is perhaps the diametric opposite of Lolita’s appeal). Supremely unsettling writer Mary Gaitskill for the preface? Brilliant. A chapter devoted to Nabokov in paperback and another to specifically Russian visions of Lolita? Love it. The vast spectrum of Lolita representations is impressive and yet, it was surprising to see, particularly in the covers commissioned specifically for this book, how certain tropes are returned to again and again: abstracted genitalia, rustled bedsheets, overwrought type treatments, the color pink. I have to say I prefer the older Lolita covers to the contemporary, commissioned ones. If I had to pick, I’d go with Balthus or Klimt for their unsettling confrontational portraits of young girls in far too much command of their sexual powers.

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