Tuesday, 18 August 2009

You really can't judge a book by these covers

The horror, the horror. . .

During my conversation about book jackets with Helen Szirtes, she made the perfectly good point that a book jacket should not misrepresent a novel. I certainly think that a cover should always say something true about the novel.

These covers shamefully misrepresent the novels. In most cases they are trying to make them seem more accessible to the mass market paperback purchaser. Although the words - greatest adventure, greatest horror etc - sound exciting, the images are so weirdly ordinary (with the exception of the 1984 cover, which is superbly - and inexplicably - sleazy). Frankenstein's monster looks like a Midwestern farmhand. Treasure Island's cover seems to be showing a tiff between two 1950s beatniks. The depraved version of Dorian Gray has something of Tony Blair about him. Or maybe that's just me. And 'romance, terror and exotic adventure' are the very words we would all use to describe Heart of Darkness, I'm sure.

And what can one say about Nana? She certainly looks very naughty. But what's going on with those strange headless shirt fronts.


Very, very odd.

Having said all that, I think a collection of pulp covers of classic novels might be a fine thing to own. And I am suddenly tempted to pulp my own covers, just for the hell of it.

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