Monday, December 8, 2008

The Razor's Edge

The Razor's Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham, is my favorite book. I've read it about twenty times, which is nineteen times more than I've ever read any other novel (with the exception of Lost Horizon, which I've read 2-3 times).

I don't even remember what made me first want to read it, because I have never been a big reader of fiction. Non-fiction, history, sociology, biographies: those I can devour with barely any knowledge on the subject. But for some reason, novels have always been a tough slog for me.

But for whatever reason, The Razor's Edge spoke to me in a way no other book ever has, and eventually I started collecting different editions of it (an idea I first heard of from the recently-late and always-great Forrest J. Ackerman, who owned something like five hundred different editions of Frankenstein). I own hardcover editions, paperbacks, movie tie-in versions, one made for soldiers in WW II (reformatted so it could more easily carried in a back pocket), even one entirely in Hebrew! (I haven't read that one yet)

Every so often, when I get in the mood to read it again, I go on eBay and see if I can find yet another edition I don't have. And once again I found one, a British edition with a different cover on sale for only a couple of bucks. A few clicks later...

Which brings me to the piece above (way above--jeez, I'm talking a lot here), where I imagined what would I do if I had the chance to design a cover for the book.

I tried several different takes on this basic theme, and eventually I settled on this, simple and clean, with the addition of the book's epigram ("The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.")

At first, I had the blue boxes stretched all the way off the edges of the picture, but then I saw that it made it look more like water, and that the man walking was walking on water, which of course brought up all kinds of inappropriate associations (the book even features a part ultimately dismissing that particular kind of miracle), so I had to reign the colors back in a bit, which I think ends up looking better anyway.

I'm almost done my latest read through of the book, and who knows? Maybe some day, if the stars align, the book's publisher will want to put a new edition, and need a new cover for it...


Craig Zablo said...

Thanks for the thoughtful post and excellent art. I especially liked...

"Every so often, when I get in the mood to read it again, I go on eBay and see if I can find yet another edition I don't have."

What a cool idea!

Zoe Nicholson said...

20. It is so worthy of 20. And we are the better for it.
May I suggest Hesse's Journey to the East? it is in the ballpark.