Apr 29

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Phil’s Art Direction: That’s the Bradbury story about an android grandmother, isn’t it? A sweet, family tale? Right, so let’s have either a muscle man or a horse on the cover. Better yet, a muscle man who IS a horse. And so ripped, that even his muscles have muscle men on them. On a wraparound cover.
Published in 1972

Outstanding! Good Show Phil!

Actually, that cover IS a classical work of art!I would touch it without protective gloves.I've seen worse. Far, far, worse.Interesting, but I would still read it in public.Middlng: Neither awful nor awfully goodWould not like to be seen reading that!Awful... just awful...That belongs in a gold-lame picture frame!Gah... my eyes are burning! Feels so good!Good Show Sir! (Average: 9.25 out of 10)

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67 Responses to “I Sing the Body Electric”

  1. James Lovegrove Says:

    Why do the muscle men on his arms not have little muscle men on theirs? And so on ad infinitum.

    Marvellous piece of airbrushing. Not.

  2. SI Says:

    It is amazing. It’s also good that he has taken time to add some blusher to his cheeks! What strong centaur would be without?

  3. Clare Says:

    Oh wow, sci fi for boytaurs.

  4. CSA Says:

    35p? ha, i think not!

    Wait, what the hell is in this book and why is there a quote from playboy on the back?

  5. Marcus Says:

    For some weird reason, seeing this cover makes my wrists hurt…

  6. A.R.Yngve Says:

    Despite tremendous pressure from the publisher, Bradbury refused to change the title of the book to I SING THE BODY CENTAURIC WITH TINY MEN ON ITS ARMS.

  7. LP Says:

    They go to all the trouble to make a horse man with horse man arms and that’s all they can do with the hair? Three times even! If Brian Eno during his Roxy Music days were to have a nightmare where he spent a night with a mare the ending wouldn’t look much different. The hair is that bad.

  8. Simon Says:

    That’s the edition I own! Therefore I have an irrational love for this cover, but even so, come on everyone admit it – is this not, in its own peculiar way, a very special cover?

    Either that or a special needs cover.

  9. Yagiz [Between Two Books] Says:

    Simply brilliant! A real gem! 🙂

  10. Adam Roberts Says:

    Doubly gelded!

    I think the guy’s profile looks a little bit like the geezer from The Mighty Boosh. In a blond wig.

  11. Phil Says:

    CSA, you should know that some men claim to buy PLAYBOY for the stories, and hence the erudite literary evaluation of Bradbury on the back cover.

    I hadn’t noticed the 35p price tag. Ah, those were the days!

  12. e.lee Says:

    I have the later edition with a ruined Martian city on the cover. This looks like a Martian centaur who had his mates grafted onto his wrists after a very wild night out

  13. Hex Says:

    This is probably the book I am most embarassed to have on my shelves. I can only imagine what Bradbury must have thought of it.

  14. Michael L Says:

    Isn’t that horse body that of a mare? Or at best a severe gelding? I guess the centaur is not much of a he-man after all.

  15. CapnMarrrrk Says:

    I swear I’m gonna hurt myself laughing at this. Best laugh all day!

  16. Salvador Dali Says:

    Thanks for the nightmare fuel. Even by my depraved standards, that cover is messed up.

  17. Philo Says:

    I can just hear the big centaur saying “Mini-me’s, you complete me!”

  18. Justin Leego Says:

    Lex, don’t feel any shame. Absolutely tremendous cover. Put it on public display, man! No hesitation!

    Got to agree with James right at the top. If there’s anything that was missed, it’s the prime opportunity for endlessly recursive centaurs. Mandlebrot horsemen of the nightmare apocalypse.

    Awesomely named cover artist as well (small print back cover).

  19. Bookworm Bas Says:

    I have covers for ‘Dandelion Wine’ and ‘Farenheit 451’ but they’re probably to blase to exhibit. I agree that at least another recursion should have been attempted but the whole picture is WTF?

  20. Tony Says:

    I actually like the cover a great deal. Who wouldn’t want mini-me’s as their arms? I’d name them and make them do bad things….

  21. Kathleen Says:

    I wonder if he can actually control the hands of his wrist-centaurs, so in effect he has four hands. Or if he can’t and he has no hands and has to be satisfied with whatever his centaur hands hands’ pick up.

  22. tyrone Says:

    Oh, to be born with a puppet show at the end of my arms. Every day I could express myself through some Punch & Judy spectacular.

  23. Helen D Says:

    I am more disturbed by the presence of the Da Vinci Code on your bookshelf. Bad show, sir!

  24. cutmanmike Says:

    WOW I’ve seen this pop up multiple times on this site, and only just noticed the horseman has horsemen for hands. No wonder it’s the top rated one!

  25. Deborah Says:

    I read this as a kid in the mid 70s – my mum had it. oh, the glory days of $1.10 paperbacks! I got $1 a week pocket money, so could spend up to 90c on lollies one week and buy a paperback the next.
    I saw absolutely nothing wrong with this cover when I was 10 – not the blusher, not the hair (actually I still like the hair – it looks like a mane, as it should), not the fact the torso is a human bloke but the horse is a mare (or, as someone said, a viciously gelded ex-stallion). I just thought it was groovy.

  26. Some Centaur Says:

    This is by far the *second*-best triple-centaur I have seen all day.

    (First-best was here: )

  27. Boo-urns Says:

    The masturbation possibilities are literally endless…

  28. Phil Says:

    26 comments, and then someone lowers the tone! 🙂

  29. Michael Says:

    Well, the title is from a poem by Walt Whitman, to which the illustration isn’t entirely inappropriate. And Whitman may have been a bit of a mare-bodied muscleman centaur himself, if you know what I mean.

  30. Cory Says:

    Yo dawg, I herd you like punching, so I put fists on your fists so you can punch while you punch.

  31. A.R.Yngve Says:

    “Tonight on 60 Minutes: When Steroid Use Goes Too Far.”

  32. NGpm Says:

    I saw a special on PBS tonight that discussed the fallout between Serling and Bradbury regarding the screenplay for the Twilight Zone. Serling didn’t like it and cut part, citing monetary concerns, and Bradbury never really spoke with him again.

    You don’t suppose that centaur armed centaurs had anything to do with the cut scene do you?

  33. Brian Says:

    Did Ray Bradbury really think this was ok? Throw him in jail! In fact, throw everyone in jail!

  34. Stevie T Says:

    Between the ages of 13 and 15 I voraciously read every short story collection of Ray Bradbury’s I could find, except one. Guess which one. Why? Because THIS was the cover of the copy that my high school library had. I wouldn’t touch it, it was too horrible. It was so bad, that I wouldn’t watch the Twilight Zone based on the story FOR YEARS. I finally managed to bury the horror in the depths of my memory, saw the Twilight Zone and went on to live a normal life until you guys had to dig it up again and remind me. Noooooooo…never underestimate the long term effects of an awful cover.

  35. 1st Paradox Says:

    I believe that this image may have been the germ of the character Ichthuhuu in The Tick.

  36. SI Says:

    After having just watched the Twilight Zone episode… seriously… where the heck did the centaur come from?

    Then again it’s not like anyone really keeps to the “in the book on the cover” rule. At least I kinda understand the artistic representation behind it… I think…

  37. Noel Says:

    How does he wipe his arse?

  38. Phil Says:

    Noel, I can only assume he follows the horse side of his cultural heritage. When did you last see a horse wipe its arse? (Let’s keep that as a rhetorical question; I really don’t want to know!)

  39. Jerk of all Trades Says:

    So when he brushes his teeth, do the little horse-men get a set of brushes, or do they live on the leftovers they pick from his teeth and that’s why they exist? AND WHO BRUSHES THEIR TEETH?

    — NO, wait, i don’t want to know!

  40. Phil Says:

    There are more questions than answers…

  41. Phil Says:

    Rationally, I know that Ray Bradbury will be remembered for his poetic prose, his soaring imagination, and for breaking down genre boundaries.

    But in my darker moments, I see people in a literature-free 24½th Century looking at this picture and wondering…

  42. Alessandra Kelley Says:

    @Phil: It is artistic hubris to think that the cover art of Ray Bradbury’s work will be more remembered than his writing. Even if M C Escher himself had done cover art for Bradbury, even George Tooker (who I think would have been really appropriate in many ways) or Remedios Varo, I think Bradbury’s writing would always endure as the best, lasting part of his life.

    I say this as an artist. Great writing is great writing, and the cover art is merely the presentation.

    This cover hasn’t harmed Bradbury, thank goodness, and will probably be forgotten long before Bradbury’s work itself fades into history.

  43. Andrew Claymore Says:

    If the muscle men on his arms eat food, where does the poop go?

  44. B. Chiclitz Says:

    Remedios Varo never did a book cover, much less a sci-fi book cover, did she? If she ever did a cover, it would of course have to be CRYING OF LOT 49, but she died before it was published. Possibly that is not a *fatal* impediment (on this site, at least), but it makes it harder. Magnificent artist, at any rate.

  45. jestermarc Says:

    He quite literally can’t tell his arse(s) from his elbows.

  46. random Donna Says:

    My teenager’s response to seeing this image is, “When you described it to me, I thought it would look strange. But this looks even stranger than I thought.”

  47. lk Says:

    The meeting went: “No robots! Any cover art but ROBOTS!” “Uhm, ok, I can deal with that…”

  48. TC Says:

    As an Illustration student i can honestly say that after spending some (much) time looking at this cover I’ve decided that everything i produce from now on must be more like this, regardless of whats actually required. This will surely bring success.

  49. AnnaT Says:

    This cover is one of the single most hilarious things I have ever seen in my live. I have no idea what kind of drugs the artist was taking when they decided to adorn this book with a recursive gelded centaur wearing blush, but they certainly made people notice the book if nothing else. I have no idea what Mr. Bradbury thought of this cover, but I doubt he was pleased. This cover is so surreal I rated it 10 just for the humour value.
    *hysterical laughter at sheer ridiculousness of this cover*

  50. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    Oh, hey, why don’t I inspire today’s youth and experience ineffable enlightenment by resurrecting a six year old blog post?

  51. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    Cover recycled from Hemingway’s A Hel-LO! to Arms.

  52. THX 1138 Says:

    Thought it was worth pointing out this is finally about to drop out of the top ten.

  53. GSS noob Says:

    As of this comment, this cover remains at #1 AND #8 in the Top Ten.

    It is a mighty, mighty piece of art indeed.

  54. ShinyAeon Says:

    On its own, the surreality of this image would be remarkable, but only briefly…but when paired with the story for which the book is named, it works a cliché in reverse, going so far into the ridiculous that it nearly becomes sublime. Words barely exist to describe the utter weirdness of the juxtaposition here, as every comment proves—hilarious as they are (and I literally LOLed my way through this thread), one has only to let one’s eyes stray back to the cover itself to be once again utterly floored by the sheer mindscrew of the combination of story and image.

    I can’t help noticing, though, that when paired with the only the WORDS of the book title (as if the Bradbury story never happened, and only Walt Whitman inspired the artist), the picture not only makes an odd sort of sense, but almost achieves a bizarrely eloquent kind of kitsch poetry. While it’s a swing and a miss when held up to the Whitman poem, the picture does manage to echo the same theme in a pop-art, Andy Warhol-esque way—touching simultaneously on self-image, narcissism, the shallowness of modern culture, the amorphousness of gender roles, the worship of appearance, the animal drives at the base of human nature, and the ephemerality of youth and physical “perfection.”

    And then you look at it again, and it’s still a mare-bodied muscle guy with muscle guys on his arms. The sublime goes back to the ridiculous, and the cycle begins again….

  55. Tom Noir Says:

    When watching yourself flex in the mirror just isn’t enough anymore…

  56. A.R.Yngve Says:

    “I heard you’re hiring puppeteers for the next season of The Mupp–
    “Say no more! You’re hired!”

  57. THX 1138 Says:

    Hey, back at the top of the chart as God intended…

  58. GSS ex-noob Says:

    Not sure that’s God who’s doing the intending here.

  59. THX 1138 Says:

    The Library Angel, then. Well known for her twisted sense of humour.

  60. Phil Nichols Says:

    Just came back here, and pleased to see this is back at No.1 ten years after I posted it. Ha!

    And this year is Bradbury’s centenary, too!

  61. Tag Wizard Says:

    @Phil – Actually it was in #2 position for the past year. Second to Thuvia, Maid of Mars.

    Someone has been messing with the ratings system recently.

  62. Bruce A Munro Says:

    Someone tried to draw a Pierson’s Puppeteer [1], but couldn’t recall the description very well?


    “Like a three-legged centaur with two Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent puppets on its hands, and no head.”

  63. GSS ex-noob Says:

    The cover that keeps on giving.

    Even when we don’t want it to.

  64. fred Says:

    @ 63 GSS

    The artist responsible may be Stanislaw Fernandes.

  65. THX 1139 Says:

    I’ve only just realised: if you picked up this book with the back cover uppermost, you’d be exclusively looking at a picture of a horse’s arse.

  66. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @fred: Well-spotted! To finally find out something new about this classic almost a dozen years later, and to give credit … er… “credit” where it’s due!

    A hearty GSS with oak leaf cluster!

    Stan did a fair amount of book covers, but this was his “masterpiece”.

    @THX: There are any number of further jokes to be made, but I’m leaving them as an exercise to the reader(s).

  67. Emster Says:

    As usual, the first time I saw this at the awesome local used bookstore, it was a book cover judgey-wudgey moment – I giggled and put it back on the shelf. Now I wish I’d nabbed it. The edition I have is very tame by comparison, too tame to submit to GSS. It’s the one printed in 1971, with a serious woman/Egyptian sarcophagus. The King Tut exhibit began touring the world in 1972 (I think?), so putting similar imagery on Ray’s book was highly likely planned and not coincidence. Unless someone knows otherwise?

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