Long Live Dirty Books!

I first encountered Thérèse the Philosopher many years ago in a used bookshop in San Francisco. I discovered a long out-of-print hardcover copy (“second printing”) published by Grove Press in  1970. The translation was by “H. F. Smith,” although the name does not appear on the front cover—conceivably a pseudonym for Grove’s legendary editor Richard Seaver who was rumored to have translated several controversial French novels for the avant-garde publisher.

Admittedly, in my 20’s, the 18th century held little historical interest for me, it was the sexual episodes that beckoned. The graphic sex acts also explain the book’s popularity in France in 1748, as the novel was the equivalent of a New York Times bestseller during the “Age of Enlightenment.”  Upon its publication, Thérèse was of course banned for its libertine amorality and copies were ordered destroyed. And surely the story’s humorous approach must have pissed off the censors as well. (Author Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d’Argens had previously authored several satirical, non-pornographic works).

With the Grove edition in mind, this spring I decided a modern translation was called for — one which emphasized the tale’s humor and made the text more “user-friendly.” New Urge Editions  commissioned the talents of Richard Robinson, who has produced the translation we’d dreamed of. We retitled the book Thérèse Finds Happiness and designed a cover** to better capture the novel’s innate charm. Indeed, even the notorious Marquis de Sade described the original novel as “…a charming performance…”

A month of blood, sweat, and tears went into the book’s interior design and we think it captures the flavor of the period without impersonating it. Note that the title page (shown here at left) states “Printed in the Hague.” To confuse the censors, early editions were undated and featured mock foreign imprints such as “The Hague” and “Londres.” Publishers and printers back then were quite witty, unlike the somber, self-important snobs on the scene today.

I’m proud to say Thérèse Finds Happiness stands as our favorite classical work of erotic literature, and one I trust readers and collectors will enjoy.







** featuring a detail  from“The Swing” by the great Thomas Rowlandson

Extreme Awareness

At left is my digital painting (“Extreme Tech Support”) for the cover of the October issue of Le Scat Noir. I wanted to repurpose the image for an ad but needed space on the right. A big problem?

Not really, thanks to Adobe’s “Content-Aware” technology in Photoshop CC (Content-Aware Patch, Scale, and Fill). The result, at right, allows room for text at the top and down the right side.

The screenshot below shows the substantial distance I added between background log and figure using Content-Aware Scale without distorting the radical tech team.

What would once have required hours of labor was accomplished in a matter of minutes.

Use your tools, comrades!

Crypto Riffs

When creating art for a book or magazine cover, I usually hit the mark fairly quickly after going through some initial rough passes, i.e.  getting through  the shit before the brainstorm.

Every once in awhile I think I’ve struck gold,  only to put aside the art for 24 hours and then  return to find something ain’t right.

Back to Square One.

Rarer still is when I have a series of variations –  like them all  and can’t decide which is best. That’s where I was today working on the cover for a forthcoming “cryptlipo” themed issue of LE SCAT NOIR.

I wound up with three designs:

Each spoke to me —albeit  in different languages. (BTW, the word is a bastardized marriage between crypto and Oulipo)

To reach this point had taken two and a half days. When I sat down to do the cover  I didn’t have the photograph. Instead, I was focused on the type in Adobe Illustrator.

I liked the concept of the characters hiding behind the theme, a game of hide and seek. This would be quite nice if I was only going to  use typography. Combined with an image, however, it would probably be lost to the viewer. But then I realized that was OK because it  was still there and captured the theme.

Sure enough, after I extruded and warped cryptlipo, “hidden” was barely visible. 🙂

Once I had the photo of the man at his typewriter, colorized and tweaked it, it was then a matter of coloring the type.

I placed each image beneath the masthead for comparison.

Alas, all three looked pretty good.


FINALLY… I made a decision.(I had to, I’m the editor).

I chose the one at bottom here.because the typography seemed integrated with the photo as opposed to looking slapped on.   The type  in the other  two are  more dynamic, but overallI think this one looks best.

What do you think?