Street Circus — Xiao Guo Hui


Street Circus, 2010 by Xiao Guo Hui (b. 1969)

Tutte — Jen Mazza


Tutte, 2009 by Jen Mazza (b. 1972)

Edith Sitwell — Wyndham Lewis

Edith Sitwell 1923-35 by Wyndham Lewis 1882-1957

Edith Sitwell, 1923–35 by Wyndham Lewis (1882–1957)

Book Club — Greg Burak


Book Club, 2018 by Greg Burak (b. 1986)

The Carnival of St. Cerro — Manuel Macarrulla


The Carnival of St. Cerro, 1981 by Manuel Macarrulla (b. 1952)

Some Roses and Their Phantoms — Dorothea Tanning

Some Roses and Their Phantoms 1952 by Dorothea Tanning born 1910

Some Roses and Their Phantoms, 1952 by Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012)

Trial cover art for Gravity’s Rainbow

trial art for gr

This trial cover for Thomas Pynchon’s novel Gravity’s Rainbow is included in Luc Herman and Steven Weisenburger’s book Gravity’s Rainbow, Domination, and Freedom (University of Georgia Press, 2013).

Herman and Weisenburger note the existence of an even earlier version with Pynchon’s working title Mindless Pleasures. I found it quickly at Pynchon Wiki, which notes:

how the image is based on the Tarot card The Tower, which – as we learn in Weissmann’s Tarot (p. 746-47) – represents “any System which cannot tolerate heresy: a system which, by its nature, must sooner or later fall. We know by now that it is also the Rocket.”


Here are Herman and Weisenburger on that first title, Mindless Pleasures:

…Pynchon’s, or perhaps the Viking editors’, extraction of that phrase [“mindless pleasures”] for the book title, although scotched, surely indexed some shared sense of thematic relevance. An early trial cover put the title “Mindless Pleasures” over a cleverly stylized version of the Tower, a key card in Weissmann/Blicero’s tarot reading. A second trial cover, also scotched, put “Gravity’s Rainbow” over the same image. The Tower gathers several interpretations, most notably (says our narrator) that of “a Gnostic or Cathar symbol for the Church of Rome, and this is generalized to mean any system which cannot tolerate heresy: a system which, by its nature, must sooner or later fall. We know by now that it is also the Rocket.” The notion of tolerance and intolerance is catchy and may also link to Marcuse on repression…. One reading of this cover would be that mindless pleasures bring down the system, are anathema to it. The common gloss of “mindless” is that it refers to the contrary of normativity, or not a mentality conditioned or “defined within rigid societal parameters”…. This contrariness presumes a hierarchy, an established order elevated above a variety of upstart alternatives, many of them popular, carnivalesque, of the body. And the arts are among them…

Weissmann’s tarot:


Herman and Weisenburger cite Clifford Mead’s Thomas Pynchon: A Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Materials (Dalkey, 1989) as their source for the trial cover.

As far as I can find, no cover designer is credited.

Symposium I — Helen Lessore

Symposium I 1974-77 by Helen Lessore 1907-1994

Symposium I, 1977 by Helen Lessore (1907–1994)

Tribute to De Chirico — Carlos Mensa

carlos mensa tribute

Tribute to De Chirico, 1974 by Carlos Mensa (1936-1982)

Harness — Tristram Hillier

Harness 1944 by Tristram Hillier 1905-1983

Harness, 1944 by Tristram Hillier (1905–1983)

Fisher the Giant — Davor Gromilovic


Fisher the Giant, 2019 by Davor Gromilovic (b. 1985)

Prince Charming — René Magritte


Prince Charming, 1948 by René Magritte (1898-1967)

Canto XX — Tom Phillips

Canto XX: [no title] 1982 by Tom Phillips born 1937

Canto XX, 1982 by Tom Phillips (b. 1937). From the Dante’s Inferno series.

The Generosity — Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

The Generosity 2010 by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye born 1977

The Generosity, 2010 by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (b. 1977)

Pieta — Peter Ferguson


Pieta by Peter Ferguson (b. 1968)

The Sea — Henry Koerner


The Sea, 1949 by Henry Koerner (1915-1991)

Christian Retreat — Eric Fischl


Christian Retreat, 1980 by Eric Fischl (b. 1948)