Today I’m going to chat about the New Penguins. Or do I mean Old Penguins? Or Penguins experiencing a second childhood? Before you think I’ve gone all David Attenborough (does that mean anything Across the Pond?) I am talking about the world of publishing. I’m probably not very uptotheminute, but I haven’t seen much discussion about the OldNew Penguins across the blogosphere, and thought I’d contribute my tuppenyworth.
For years – ever since I first found an old orange-striped Penguin paperback – I’ve maligned Penguin’s decision to ditch these covers. Yes, they’re Penguin Classics covers are often beautiful and well chosen, and I daresay some of their other choices aren’t aesthetically unpleasing, but there is no book jacket so distinctive and iconic as the old Penguin stripes. Moan on, I did, and moan. And, I can only imagine as a direct result of my solitary moaning, Penguin celebrated their birthday by reissuing several recent books in these old covers. Be still, my palpitating heart! Well, not completely still. That would be rather a fatal error.
So I did what any self-respecting bookaholic did, and scurried along to all good bookshops (or at least one of ’em) and beheld a table full of these beauties. Light Blue for big idea; Green for mystery; Orange for fantastic fiction; Pink for distant lands; Dark Blue for real lives; Purple for viewpoints. And in a buy-one-get-one-half-price offer.
My first choice was quite easy. I’ve been wanting a copy of Claire Tomalin’s Jane Austen : A Life ever since I borrowed Our Vicar’s Wife’s copy a few years back – and to have a nice purple Penguin copy… But I was determined to get a truly iconic orange Penguin, in which guise so many of my favourite novels have appeared. Hmm… (quick perusal of stall)… well… no, not really… and I don’t want that. Haven’t heard of that, doesn’t look very good… Saw that for 10p the other day…
I came away from the orange Penguins entirely empty-handed. Fantastic Fiction? For each title I either had it, didn’t want it, or could get it (in a different cover) for next to nothing in a charity shop. Hmph. So I bought The House at Riverton instead. Great idea, Penguin, but a little more thought in the fiction department, perhaps.