Monday 15 October 2012

Book Review: The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury; Rupert Hart-Davis, 1952 (John Minton Cover); Corgi, 1955 (John Richards Cover)

Keep 'em peeled for that promised post on a special edition of the final novel by Peter George, co-writer of Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, but in the meantime, and continuing the quest to get the total number of covers on the Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s page up to 100 (currently it stands at 95), here's a book I bought at the last-but-one Lewes Book Fair, and which I also own in a paperback edition – the contents of which differ slightly from the hardback – purchased at last year's London Paperback and Pulp Bookfair:

The Illustrated Man, a collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury, first published in the UK by Rupert Hart-Davis in 1952. This is actually the third impression of the British first edition, dating from 1958, but since I only paid seven quid for it, and jacketed second or third impressions start at around the £50 mark online, I'm not complaining. That wrapper was designed by John Minton, a very well known painter and illustrator linked with the twentieth century British Neo-Romantic movement (a school of art I'm quite keen on myself), and a number of whose works are held by the Tate, the British Council, and now, of course, by that similarly venerable institution, the Existential Ennui Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s gallery. Ahem.

I was already pretty familiar with most of the stories in The Illustrated Man, having read them in various other Ray Bradbury anthologies over the years, but reading them again gathered together like this was quite instructive. For one thing, this time around I discovered new layers to some of them, such as "Kaleidoscope", which became less of a terrifying tale of being cast adrift in space and more of a meditation on mortality, regret and the importance of living life to the full. For another, I was struck by how Mars-centric many of the stories herein are. A number of them could have quite easily fitted into The Martian Chronicles – or The Silver Locusts, to give it its British title – Bradbury's second book, published just prior to The Illustrated Man – and indeed one of them originally did. Which brings me neatly to that other edition of The Illustrated Man:

The first British paperback edition, published by Corgi/Transworld in 1955 under a cover by John Richards. This version of the book was evidently printed using the US Bantam plates; not only is it set in American English – i.e. US spelling – but it contains eighteen stories, as opposed to the Hart-Davis hardback, which only contains sixteen:

Handily, the book's Wikipedia entry lists all the differences between editions, so I don't need to go into them here, except to note that anyone, like me, who owns the Rupert Hart-Davis edition of The Silver Locusts should be aware that "Usher II", which was omitted from that edition, can be found instead in the Hart-Davis edition of The Illustrated Man (but not in the Corgi paperback); and that not only is the table of contents in the Hart-Davis edition of The Illustrated Man different to the Corgi one, but the introductory prologue has been altered to account for having two fewer tales, changing

Eighteen Illustrations, eighteen tales. I counted them one by one.


Sixteen Illustration, sixteen tales. I counted them one by one.

So now you know.

So that was the 96th addition to Beautiful British Book Jackets – and as it turns out the 97th addition was also bought in Lewes; just last week, in fact, in one of this fair East Sussex town's many charity shops. And what's more, it may well have been the best Lewes Book Bargain yet...


  1. I've yet to read this book but the film with Rod Steiger was simply awesome. Steiger appeared in every segment as a different character and that film more than any other made me appreciate how good an actor he was.

  2. Its nice we got connected. I will now be able to introduce my book club members to more books- thanks to your blog.

    follow me at, leave a comment i am following you.

  3. I don't think I've seen that. Is it really that good? Seems to have a fairly iffy rep online.

  4. I liked it, Nick. But I have been known to like films that few others agree are worthwhile.

    The main reason I liked it was Steiger's performance. It seemed to me he really did a great job playing multiple characters in it.

    But I am in no way knowledgeable about Bradbury's work or that particular book, so I have no way of knowing if many liberties were taken while adapting it for the big screen.

    I do like some Sci-Fi but I have mainly read Philip K. Dick, Roger Zelazny, and Robert Heinlein. I really should get around to Bradbury.

  5. I can't comment on its faithfulness – or otherwise – either, Dave; but I can wholeheartedly recommend Bradbury: a brilliant storyteller, and a master of the short form in particular. Best place to start is The Martian Chronicles, which is one of my all-time favourite books:

  6. I read pretty much everything Bradbury ever wrote before I went to college. A high school teacher read us "The Veldt" from "The Illustrated Man" in class one day, and I was so interested, she loaned me her 1969 Mass Market paperback edition--which I think still has the best of all the many covers for this book.

    I devoured it overnight, and then it was off to the library for more. I remember finishing some of them--"The Small Assassin"--"The Emissary"--in a cold sweat.

    One of the all-time masters of the short story, and a prose poet without superior. His few genuine novels are a bit hit or miss, but "Something Wicked This Way Comes" certainly sustained an eerie atmosphere.

    The movie was pretty faithful to the book, Steiger and Bloom were well-cast, but there are good reasons why it's not well-remembered today. Sometimes even a decent adaptation simply can't touch the original. Bradbury belongs on the printed page. So, for the most part, does Donald Westlake.

  7. I think I did all my Bradbury reading around the ages of 12-16 or so, Chris, so not dissimilar to you. I borrowed everything I could get my hands on from Beckenham Library: short story collections, obviously, but also Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked, Dandelion Wine... But I also had two paperback doorstop collections: The Stories of Ray Bradbury Volumes 1 and 2, with bright red and yellow covers. Of all the books I had when I was a kid, those are the only two I still own.

  8. There's not much sex in Bradbury (nothing explicit, certainly), and I think many discovered him when they were young, and yet he published quite a lot of his best work in Playboy. Well, so did many others. Paid well, I would guess.

    As powerful an influence as he was on me, the biggest impact of my reading him was that he led me to other writers. You know the stories--quite often a host of writers he loved would be holed up on Mars or somewhere, plotting their revenge on a sanitized futuristic earth where good stories were outlawed. And I treated these references to Bierce, Lovecraft, Thomas Wolfe, et al, as a required reading list. And they in turn led me to others, and I ended up very far from where I'd started. But I can't say I enjoyed any of them more than Bradbury.

    I have had many literary idols in the interim, many of whom were, I think, keener students of human nature and the nature of our universe, but I probably never felt such an all-consuming interest in any other writer until I encountered Westlake. They have many things in common, but their approach to storytelling was radically different. Westlake aimed, I think, to cast a cold (though not unsympathetic) eye on life, on death--Bradbury couldn't cast a cold eye on anything. His passions burned hot, and that's why he's a writer who will always have his sharpest appeal to the young.

    Not that we aren't young. Of course. ;)

  9. I'll give The Martian Chronicles a shot, Nick. I did enjoy the TV adaptation with Darren McGavin's wacky performance as a space cowboy.;-) lol

    As for Chris' comment about being young, for some warped reason, possibly because you're so erudite, I imagined you were an older chap, Nick, far older than my 39.

    I figured it would take one quite a few decades to amass all the knowledge you have about books, publishing, music, snd so on. You are definitely one of the very few people I've encountered in life who's undoubtedly read more than I have.

    What a shock to discover you are younger than me!;-) lol

    I guess I've just been incredibly lazy these last 39 years!

  10. Younger than you?! Where'd you get that from? I'm as old as the hills, Dave (well, I feel that way most days). I'm actually 42. So I guess I must be pretty knowledgeable – at least if the late Douglas Adams is to be believed...

    Chris: I can name a handful of other writers I've been as into as I was Bradbury: Westlake, obviously; Stephen King; Patricia Highsmith; a few others. But Bradbury was the one who opened my mind to the possibilities of fiction, to what can be achieved in often not very many pages at all. His description was often colourful and evocative, but he was also the master of economy, and it's the writers that are similarly succinct that I admire the most, I think.

  11. Wow, you look a lot younger than that. Plus I could have sworn that you wrote you'd been born in 1974 somewhere. Oh well. I've revealed my spotty memory once again--I really MUST be getting old.

    I too like writers who are economical, with a few exceptions. I don't think James Crumley has ever been accused of being succinct or economical and he's one of my all-time favorites. One of the very few writers I'd place in DEW or John D. MacDonald's league.

  12. Crumley rings a bell – possibly because you've mentioned him to me before! I'll keep him in mind. As for JDM, you might be pleased to hear that having read only one of his books (The Only Girl in the Game), I've just acquired an early McGee, and intend to give the series a go.

  13. Awesome, Nick! I can't wait to hear what your thoughts are about Travis. Bear in mind it's best to give 2 or 3 chances to any longstanding series to capture the character evolvement. And McGee certainly evolves. From a care-free, live for the moment adventurer to a grief-stricken, world-weary realist.

    I just ribbed you over at VWOP, replying to your latest post that the only faux pas you've made in my eyes, literary-wise, is not becoming aquainted with a certain rangy beach bum named McGee.

    If I'd only read your EE comment sooner.:-) lol