Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fun with Trim Size! Observations About J.K. Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy" and László Krasznahorkai's "Satantango."

Several blogs ago, I noted that J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy was a bit oversized compared to the other books on the new paperback table. A little sleuthing led us to make the pronouncement that at least some of the first printing of the paperback was a strip and rebind. The other basis of our assumption was that the paperback had an unusual orange endpaper, just like the hardcover.

Hannah noted to me this morning that we now have a traditionally printed paperback in stock. It is exactly 3/4 of an inch shorter in height than our previous books and while it's slightly fatter, it is .4 ounces lighter than the original paperback. This upholds my thesis that for the most part, the quality of paper is better for hardcovers than paperbacks. Price point buys more than "cloth" jackets, at least in many cases.

Last week Jason called to my attention that we got László Kraszhnahorkai's Satantango (translated by George Szirtes) in two trim sizes.  One was 5 by 7.875 inches and the other was 5.375 by 8 inches. Jason was mystified. The book was relatively recent and it was particularly unusual for a book to change trim so quickly.

A little more about the book before we go further. It was published in Hungary in 1985, but didn't find worldwide acclaim until after a movie adaptation by Bela Tarr, a film that went over seven hours long. The plot itself revolves around a newcomer to a Hungarian town who may either be a con artist, a prophet, or the devil himself. The book is a bit hard to follow, says Theo Tait in The Guardian, but it had many fans, from Colm Tóibín, who wrote that "Kraszhnakorai is alone among European novelists now in his intensity and originality."

The cover quote is from James Wood, which simply reads "profoundly unsettling." It seemed like a good book for Conrad, but I don't have a quote from him...yet.

So I asked our friend Tom at New Directions what happened, and he sent my query to Barbara Epler, the publisher. She told us that Satantango was also a strip and rebind. The first printing sold out, the demand was there, and there were still some appearances to come, so they pushed the button on the reprint. Alas, demand is a funny thing and didn't hold, and the returns started coming back.

The tricky thing in this case, is that they had enough books to do only a partial strip and rebind, so they also commissioned a traditional paperback. Barbara told me that her production chief, Erik, is not a fan of these strips, but I told her that booksellers, at least these booksellers, don't mind them in the least. It seems like an environmentally friendly solution and you're likely to get the added bonus of better paper and often larger type, all at paperback prices.

My only complaint is that sometimes the inner margins are a little tight. Barbara noted that sometimes the strip can't be done for this very reason. I should note that unusually enough, in this case the strip-and-bind edition is the smaller trim and the commissioned paperback is larger. But true to my experience, the new-for-paperback printing is slightly lighter, 10.9 ounces to the strip and bind's 11.3 ounces. It seems small enough but you wouldn't notice, but hold both in your hands and you will. Just rub the pages of the two editions and you will notice a difference--the strip edition stock is smoother to the touch.

If you do order either Satantango or The Casual Vacancy from us, please indicate which edition you want.

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