Cover to Cover with Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest is a neutron star of a novel: huge, dense, and brilliant. I’m usually a fast reader, but it took me four months to get through IJ – and still it was one of the most draining, exhilarating, mind-bending, beautiful things I’ve ever read.

And for those who don’t have time to read 1079 pages at the moment, window-shop through the novel’s array of simple, striking covers. If you feel particularly inspired, Infinite Jest‘s publisher Little, Brown is holding a contest to design a cover for the 20th anniversary edition (although of course they are under no obligation to actually use your design).

Trade paperback first edition   Hardcover first edition  Trade paperback -second edition

They feature a lot of cloud imagery… and no one really knows why. DFW didn’t have a say in the cover. Some editor somewhere liked it.

The foreign covers are a little more varied. From left to right and top to bottom, the Portuguese edition, Spanish edition, and German edition:

Spanish edition     German edition

I especially like the Spanish version – a perfect sitcom family. The image is vintage, cute, and has a tiny undercurrent of creepiness – just like the novel itself.

The Brazilian edition deserves a special mention – it’s straight-up gorgeous, and I wish I could buy an English version of the novel with this cover:

Brazillian edition - side image

I’m a sucker for graphic design that uses the page edges. It’s not something you see very often, but it’s one way to make book design really pop.

Even the concept art for the Brazilian edition would have made a kick-ass cover – no further edits needed:

Initial sketches for Brazillian edition

Usually I leave off with a set of independent redesigns from graphic designers and illustrators but instead I’m only going to showcase one, from Alexander Leonardo Swenson. It’s basically a bingo board of references – stylized, simple, and clever.

Alexander Leonardo Swenson redsign

The bar is high for the Anniversary edition – although part of me is betting they’ll just go with clouds. Again.

How about you? Which cover is your favourite? I’d love to see your comments. Feel free to link to any great cover art that I’ve missed!

Cover to Cover is a weekly project comparing and critiquing the various covers of popular novels, published every Wednesday. Find more posts in this series here.

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2 thoughts on “Cover to Cover with Infinite Jest

    • I have it as a Kindle edition too, which is so useful in so many ways – much easier to keep track of the endnotes, and I found having a built-in dictionary to be WICKED useful. But there’s always something about the physical edition that has a special something to it…

      I’ve only ever seen the (cloud-filled and relatively boring) paperback editions in person – I’m sure my self-control would go out the window if I ever found a hardcover.

      Liked by 1 person

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