Sunday, September 9, 2012

Covering 50 Years of STERN

"Well before Philip Roth, in Portnoy's Complaint, turned the special predicament of the American Jew into a long psychiatric joke, Bruce Jay Friedman had told the original story and gotten the first laugh."
                                                                           -Jack Richardson, in his 1980
                                                                     introduction to STERN

Bruce Jay Friedman's first novel STERN was published by Simon & Schuster exactly 50 years ago, in Sept 1962, and was widely acclaimed by critics as a major literary event:

"An iridescent tour de force... Mr. Friedman's style is pure delight-supple, carnal, humorous and at times slightly surrealistic."
                                                                   -The New York Times Book Review

"What makes Friedman more interesting than most of Malamud, Roth and Bellow is the sense he affords of possibilities larger than the doings and undoings of the Jewish urban bourgeois... What makes him more important is that he writes out of viscera instead of cerebrum."
                                                                                -Nelson Algren in The Nation

"A strange and touching novel... funny and sad at the same time... in the tradition of a Charlie Chaplin movie."

Bruce Jay Friedman

 Over the years, my father has been fortunate to have had some of the top designers at Simon & Schuster, Knopf, and elsewhere, create many innovative cover mages for his books, and STERN was no exception, beginning with the original bold, stark cover designed by Tony Palladino. I always felt privileged when a box of the first editions of my dad's newest books would arrive at our house and my brothers and I would be able to absorb (and sometimes critique) the covers before almost anyone else had seen them.

Here are all the covers for STERN covering the last 50 years.

Oh, and please, treat yourself to reading the book!
(ignore the 2 amazon "reviews" that were obviously written by morons)

Jay Ruttenberg for Book Forum picks his six funniest novels (including STERN)
the first hardcover edition of STERN published by Simon & Schuster in Sept 1962 was designed by Tony Palladino
a 1962 NY Times book review ad 
the first paperback edition of STERN was published by Signet in 1963, featuring cover art by the famed New Yorker cartoonist Saul Steinberg
the British hardcover from 1963, published by Andre Deutsch, jacket design by Noel McCready
the British paperback from 1965, published by Mayflower/Dell books, artist unknown

the 1965 French edition 
When my father's second novel "A Mother's Kisses" became a New York Times bestseller in 1964, Simon & Schuster combined his first two novels into one edition
Pocket books paperback edition from 1970

a Spanish edition from 1977
Arbor House edition from 1980, cover design by Paul Bacon, channeling Tony Palladino's original cover design
Atlantic Monthly Press edition from 1989, cover designed by Jo Bonney
STERN, the audiobook, from Jewish Contemporary Classics, from 2000, cover design by Lia Di Stefano
 from Grove Press (2000), with a cover illustration by Christoph Niemann

a recent Spanish edition
"A Door Opens": Bruce Jay Friedman for TABLET magazine on STERN and his early literary success...

                                  Author photo by Jerome Yulsman


  1. They're all nice but I like the first one the best. The design still looks fresh today, 50 years later.

  2. I'm ashamed to admit I've never read any BJF (except STEAMBATH and an anthology on BLACK HUMOR), even though it's been on my To Do list for decades.

    That's easily remedied, however. Off to Amazon, I go...

  3. Just finished the reading this one (the '63 edition with the Saul Steinberg cover, had to fix it up with packing tape as it nearly fell apart) and I was blown away. The conceit of this novel is so audacious, the story so sure handedly wrought. I sought BJF on the web and found a recording of him reading a short story and, well thats it. I'm hooked. I'm ordering A Mothers Kisses and a short story collection tonight.

  4. I've seen the first edition cover many times, but just noticed that the name "STERN" is (intentionally) a little askew. Those few degrees of off-kilterness make all the difference. (Paul Bacon left that detail out of his version.)
    I have to say that the Steinberg is beyond perfect, though.