Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cover Me Badd*

Browsing in Reader's Feast the other day, I noticed that Penguin seem to have expanded their range of silver-spined modern classics. That, or Reader's Feast has broadened their ordering policy to include a handful of obscure titles, i.e. books not written by a member of the Amis family. Whatever the case, I grabbed a copy of Aharon Appelfeld's Baddenheim 1939 (been on my to-read list since forever) and noted the titles of a few others for future purchasing.

I also noted the arrival of Penguin's latest series of repackaged classics, Penguin Reds. The titles in the series are fairly predictable, although it's good to see the work of authors like Stefan Zweig and Eduard Morike getting a run (he says, pretending to have read them). At around $10, the books are cheap, compact, and I expect to pick up a few over the next few months.

The only down side is Penguin's choice of cover art. Not that I particularly like the sombre, drawing-room tone of Penguin's main classics range (all those black spines!), but the attempt to modernise the look, and presumably appeal to younger book buyers, has one fatal flaw: modern book art is mostly shit.

Take a look at what Penguin Reds deems suitable for Nabokov's sublime masterpiece:

Ugh. And possibly: snore. Certainly it is nothing compared to this:

Not exactly the kind of thing you'd want to be seen reading on the train, but it is certainly striking, and conveys something of the story's themes, as well as paying cheeky homage to the novel's lurid reputation. It is appropriate without being fusty, modern without being self-consciously flashy or pretentious.

Of course it all comes down to marketing. Check out this awful chick-lit edition of Sense and Sensibility:

Not sure which publisher has dressed this prime lamb up as spam, but whoever is responsible deserves, as Book World suggests, to "have two Bic Biros held with the pointy ends against their eyes and be forced to head-butt their own desk." And even that might be letting them off lightly.

*Other titles considered included: Cover Version; Got It Covered; Under The Covers; and The Aesthetics of Repackaged Classics, Or: Wow, That Cover is Shit!


At 3:19 PM, Blogger TimT said...

I once did a post called 'Judging a Book by Its Cover' - the book in question was Ulysses and, well, my distaste for Joyce has come through in other posts on this blog.

Been meaning to do another 'cover review' for some time now. I'll just tick off those titles as already being done, and come up with something incredibly funny and witty for the post, whenever I do it.

Generally, the Penguin books do show a bit of tit on the cover, but avoid offence, because the displayed body parts are usually from some 'classic' work of art, or something like that. Clever!

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Tim said...

You dislike Joyce? Obviously that's an attack on left-wingers because, um, because left-wingers, er, left-wingers read Joyce and...ah! that's it, Joyce wrote about poor people, and you want to take poor people's money and give it to Halliburton, you filthy conservative! Ha, I've got your number, Mr T!

At 9:50 AM, Blogger TimT said...

You've got it the wrong way around. Conservatives dislike Joyce because he's a modernist, and Hitler because he's a left-winger. It's something to do with the Nazi's being national socialists, or something like that. At least let me be discriminating in my prejudice!

I was a little perplexed by Lefty's line of argument, but fair enough; I've made some pretty pedantic arguments on his blog from time to time.

At 10:17 AM, Blogger Tim said...

I was amused that his "critique" was at least twice as long as your original post.

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