Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Trending Topics: Cover Redesigns for Classics -- Oh Anne Shirley!

Are you prepped to get your literary panties in a twist?  Last week one of my former coworkers forwarded me a link to Jezebel’s story about the new cover redesign for The Bell Jar. Because I was busy (explaining how to print out an email to a patron for the hundredth time), I only had a few moments to glance over the article but my reaction was expected: I grimaced, did a Liz Lemon worthy eye roll, and chalked it up to corporate America’s idea to package and advertise a book about depression into something possibly teen or chick lit friendly – with pink and lipstick!

New and "Improved" vs Original
Yesterday I was browsing some trending headlines and my attention was drawn to a cover redesign for Anne of Green Gables and the fuss it has created.  The traditional cover has transformed into one featuring a sassy looking blonde who might suggest a story about a roll in the hay with the farmer’s daughter rather than the tale of an unwanted freckled ginger.  With some parents groups throwing a hissy because they think that the redesign is "sexy" or "too adult" for a children’s book, (I do have to admit that the new Anne Shirley would probably have no problems getting that headstrong Gilbert Blythe to be at her beck and call) it has some asking if the publishing industry has gone too far with covers.

Had I actually read the Jezebel article the first time, I would’ve seen that they had already linked a picture of the new Anne of Green Gables cover, but this made me curious about other classic titles getting makeovers.  Recently Wuthering Heights has been renovated to appeal to the Twilight crowd with its new cover – one that even boasts that it is Edward and Bella’s favorite book(!).   And the latest Breakfast at Tiffany’s edition is in Tiffany & Co.’s trademark blue and brings to mind something classier than a free spirited teenage call girl.  Wtf is going on and can we expect this trend to continue? 

The publishing industry doesn't seem to care what message the new jacket sends. Do these revamped and “updated” covers insult teens or other audiences as indicated (or even the long dead authors)?  Do they trivialize the subject matter? Are these any better than books that have the movie tie-in covers promoting “now a major motion picture”?  Does the end (baiting someone to read) justify the means? Obvi, I don’t have any concrete answers to these questions, but I do believe it lends to an interesting topic for discussion among librarians, teachers, readers, book industry employees, graphic designers, etc.  

This is a rare instance where I have actually read all of the books featured and I can honestly say that none of the “modern” alterations accurately represent any of the titles in my opinion, but some have posed that maybe the same could be said of previous covers.  Except the old Anne of Green Gables says awkward redhead. Oh, and previous The Bell Jar looks like a stone cold bummer.  Annnnd now that I'm thinking of it, the boring landscape of Wuthering Heights makes me yawn like I'm back in 11th grad lit.  Of course they don't have the same agenda either.  Looking up old covers, I find that the 1959 paperback edition of Breakfast appears to be fairly honest about its contents (I recall receiving the middle version as a gift and wondering if it contained the story of a pasty, little man).  In my searching, I also came across several Bell Jar parodies that this makeover s-storm has inspired.

1 comment:

  1. I suppose whatever gets people reading a book is a good cover. And anything would be better than those Penguin classics with the paintings on the cover.

    Both Bell Jar covers are awful for different reasons. I remember reading the one with the rose on it.

    I would say those books aren't being marketed to me anymore. But maybe publishers are willing to target-market covers since, with the advent of e-books, I won't have to worry about sassy blonde Anne staring out from my copy.

    I love this topic. Come back to it!