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.”

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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:

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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.

Lolita Cover Archive

Checkout this great cover gallery archiving over 150 covers of Vladimir Nabokov’s masterpiece Lolita. A few favorites–

This 1957 Swedish cover is a pretty subtle/creepy upskirt.

1962, Brazil.

A 1964 LP with Pop Art undertones–seems a little too frank.

This 1970 Italian cover seems to be the earliest “girl in socks” theme that pops up again and again in the archive.

This 1972 Norwegian cover picks up the voyeur theme again, but it seems awfully goofy.

The poster for the Stanley Kubrick film adaptation inspired a rash of bad covers, but I think that this 1977 German cover works really well.

A Lebanese edition from 1988. Pretty and simple.

Balthus and Lolita seem like a natural fit, if a bit too obvious. I counted two other covers sporting Balthus paintings in addition to this 1995 English edition.

This Polish cover from 1997 is nine kinds of creepy.

Waiting for The Visitor

We’re pretty psyched about Jim O’Rourke‘s upcoming album, The Visitor, out on Drag City September 8th. O’Rourke hasn’t put out a “pop” record (as opposed to “experimental,” something of a false dichotomy really) since 2001’s Insignificance. Apparently, the new record is in the vein of one of our all-time favorite records, 1997’s Bad Timing. Supposedly the record will take the form of one long suite of music called “The Visitor,” and according to this interview from last year, “pretty much everyone is going to be disappointed.” He also says that the new record will be “pt. 4” after Bad Timing, Eureka, and Insignificance, so it’s hard to imagine being disappointed. Here’s the (we think) Nic Roeg connection (quick note: the three albums just cited are named after Nic Roeg films): in 1976’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, David Bowie plays a space alien stranded on Earth who records an album under the name The Visitor. Here’s the cover of The Visitor:

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Here’s a Eureka-era audio interview with O’Rourke that you can download. He talks about his prolific powers, the influence of Godard and Roeg on his work, hierarchy and didacticism in music, the cheesy sax solo on “Eureka” (“Of course it’s stupid!”), and why listening to music is a process of education. Good stuff. Or, if you want music, not words, here’s the sorta kinda rarity, “Never Again,” from the Chicago 2018 comp. Also good stuff.