Tuesday, May 01, 2012

SMUT: stories

by Alan Bennett / A Picador Paperback Original

Cover illustration by Christopher Silas Neal

One of England’s finest and most loved writers explores the uncomfortable and tragicomic gap between people’s public appearance and their private desires in two tender and surprising stories.
In The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson, a recently bereaved widow finds interesting ways to supplement her income by performing as a patient for medical students, and renting out her spare room. Quiet, middle-class, and middle-aged, Mrs. Donaldson will soon discover that she rather enjoys role-play at the hospital, and the irregular and startling entertainment provided by her tenants.
In The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes, a disappointed middle-aged mother dotes on her only son, Graham, who believes he must shield her from the truth. As Graham’s double life becomes increasingly complicated, we realize how little he understands, not only of his own desires but also those of his mother.
A master storyteller dissects a very English form of secrecy with two stories of the unexpected in otherwise apparently ordinary lives.

My idea? SMUT = British Reserve + Sex

I liked the approach of taking proper teacups to represent British stiff upper lip reserve and arranging them in a sexually suggestive but subtle way. My initial approach was photographic.

Earlier comps:

But it was looking too stiff and needed more whimsy. I thought the wonderfully talented illustrator Christopher Silas Neal was the perfect person to render this concept without making it look too trashy.
Originally I wanted him to depict just one set of teacups caught in a sexual position rendered with plenty of details, as in the photographic approach. But when I saw all of Christopher's great "cupping" sketch ideas I laughed. I couldn't choose just one. So I decided to include several of them in the design and kept them as simply drawn silhouettes. I'm surprised we didn't try any ideas with a tea bag. Next time.

Christopher's sketches:

An alternate comp using a hand-lettered title but decided to keep it austere:

Tiffany Gibert of Books Matter Blog used our cover to pick out her outfit.

Alan Bennett reads 'The Greening of Mrs Donaldson' from his new book SMUT:

Alan Bennett Defies Expectations With 'Smut'
by NPR Staff / All Things Considered, January 12, 2012