Paperback : 03 Jul 2008
One of Britain’s most popular novels, George Orwell’s dystopian tale Nineteen Eighty-Four is set in a society terrorised by a totalitarian ideology propagated by The Party.
‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’
Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101. . .
Nineteen Eighty-Four is George Orwell’s terrifying vision of a totalitarian future in which everything and everyone is slave to a tyrannical regime. The novel also coined many new words and phrases which regular appear in popular culture, such as ‘Big Brother’, ‘thoughtcrime’, ‘doublethink’ and ‘Newspeak’.
‘More relevant to today that almost any other book that you can think of’ Jo Brand
‘Right up there among my favourite books…I read it again and again’ Margaret Atwood
George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) was an accomplished social, political and literary commentator and essayist known for his non-fiction works The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia. His most famous novels, Animal Farm and 1984 have influenced a generation of twentieth century political satirists and dystopian novelists. This edition of Orwell’s seminal novel is introduced by Professor Peter Davidson.
Renegade street artist turned art professional, Shepard Fairey, has brought his iconic art to the cover of this literary masterpiece. Only one other of Orwell’s books, Animal Farm, has been re-jacketed with Fairey’s artwork. Impressive as they are potent, get ready to turn a few heads as these classics are eyed up with envy.
Senior Copywriter Colin Brush talks to www.penguin.co.uk
Your recent blog on the new Shepard Farey covers of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm generated a huge amount of discussion, what do you make of the claims that Shepard Farey is a plagiarist?
Judging by the way Fairey appears to polarise opinion – on the interweb, at least – I think it depends on whether you like or dislike his work. Of course, that ignores the fact that many people apparently dislike it because they consider it plagiarism. However, I think that view is to misunderstand what he’s doing. The works that the accusations say he is borrowing from are often from state-endorsed artworks that believed wholeheartedly in the messages they were imparting. Whereas Fairey’s Obey work subverts such messages through adding layers of irony with his pop-art sensibility (and by sticking it on a t-shirt he commodificates these messages). He also appears to be making money out of what he does, which is always going to upset some people.
Do you enjoy the challenge of trying to devise a new blurb, particularly on the reissue of an old book?
Absolutely. Most of the books I work on have a pre-existing blurb - I work mainly on our new and reissued paperbacks, so there is usually something to base the new blurb on or something to avoid doing if we want to change the focus of the blurb and attract a different audience. The challenge is always to make the book as relevant as possible to the audience we think it will most appeal to. The same goes for the cover designers, whose job is much tougher than mine.
Do you think blurbs can give away too much of the plot of a book?
Many blurbs do give away too much plot. There is nothing worse than being three-quarters of the way through a book while knowing that a plot point – say a murder – mentioned in the blurb has yet to happen. Bad blurbs remind me of those film trailers that seem to go on for about two minutes by the end of which you know you’ll never go and see the film because you’ve just been shown a two-minute version that revealed everything. And no blurb at all, just a list of quotes saying how wonderful the book is almost as bad. A blurb should have a hook: anything that has the reader asking what happens next? Or thinking to herself I want to know more. Of course, the experience of reading the blurb of a book you’ve already read will be very different to that of anyone who has not read the book.
Which Nineteen Eighty-Four cover, Christopher Corr's 1989 edition or Shepard Farey's 2008 edition do you prefer and why?
The Fairey’s by a country mile.
Do you always read a book before you write its blurb?
I work on about two hundred new books a year so very few of them I get to read entirely. Most I read a few pages of or I skim chunks of to get an idea of style and plot. It is almost always harder to write the blurb of a book I have read or like a lot. There is the temptation to cram too much in, whereas only having the basic idea of plot/character/point allows me to get across in as straightforward and compelling a manner as possible the hook – which is my job.
Do you believe it is the cover design or the blurb that better sells a book?
The job of the cover is to get punters to pick up the book. The job of the blurb is to make sure they don’t put it back down.
What is the strangest blurb you have every written, and are some blurbs intentionally more cryptic than others?
Some blurbs have to be cryptic in order not to spoil the story for the reader, but you’ve always got to have a hook. Without a hook, there’s no story – and no reason to read the book.
The strangest blurb I have ever written was for a book called Triss, which is about the mysterious world of Redwall, populated by rodents who carry swords and live in castles. The blurb began: ‘Triss, don’t be foolish, no beast ever escaped from Riftgard an’ lived to tell of it. You’ve got to ferget those mad ideas!’ Yet the young squirrelmaid, Triss, cannot give up her dream of escaping slavery at the hands of the tyrannical ferret family. . .
However, my fellow copywriter Sarah Kettle in Puffin tells me that she writes blurbs about dolphins and unicorns and princesses all the time. I think I know who is having more fun here.
Size : 111 x 181mm
Pages : 336
Published : 03 Jul 2008
Publisher : Penguin