Here comes the last post on the ‘Book Cover’ series for the A2Z challenge. I didn’t wish to write about just another book cover so here goes this post exploring some of my favourite book covers.
The little zing on the book cover holds the enthusiasm of the reader and lures them to the cash counter. They say never judge a book by its cover but who doesn’t. Undoubtedly, the attractiveness of the cover piques your interest in a book and sometimes sends it to a nosedive as well. The only exception may be the Classics. But I also falter there, looking at some of the most divine covers of the Classics; I simply cannot resist the temptation to buy.
On another note – Do you have a fetish for collecting Classics that form part of a certain book cover design series? I do but it has ended in such a soup. I have half the Classics in Collins black and white cover and the other half of the shelf in beige of the Penguin Classics. And, then Penguin decided to come up with bands-of-colour edition, similar to the white peeping through orange standard covers from its past. In a stroke, they just did away with my idea of understanding a book by its cover.
Nevertheless, before the world decides to go without book covers or exist in standardized book covers, let me talk about some of the most appealing book covers.
The first section has to be the Classics and their iconic imagery. George Orwell’s ‘1984’ is a cult and who wouldn’t agree that the first thing this title invokes is the image of the ‘eye’ in our minds. The ‘eye’ stood for Big Brother’s omniscient presence in the dystopian world. Every book cover edition has tried to incorporate this imagery.
‘The Great Gatsby’ by F.Scott Fitzgerald published in 1925 had the Spanish artist Francis Cugat’s iconic painting of a disembodied face floating above the lights of New York. In the book, they are the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg that are blue and gigantic—high on a billboard. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. The eyes metaphorically represent God watching and judging the society as they move across the moral wasteland.
Strangely, Fitzgerald actually saw the cover art before his manuscript was finished. The art apparently had a big influence on Fitzgerald. In a correspondence with his editor, Maxwell Perkins, Fitzgerald wrote, “For Christs sake don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me. I’ve written it into the book.”
In the original dust jacket of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D.Salinger published in 1951, illustrator E. Michael Mitchell depicted the book’s last scene with an angry, red carousel horse.
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee was published in 1960 and featured the now iconic dying tree on the cover.
Lighthouses are inspiring, literally, and metaphorically as on the cover of the first edition of ‘To the Lighthouse’ by Virginia Woolf published in 1927. Virginia Woolf wrote this story inspired by Godrevy Lighthouse in St Ives at Cornwall, where she holidayed as a child with her family. Virginia Woolf’s sister Vanessa Bell designed the covers for her books. Bell chose to visualize the lighthouse, a symbolic object within the novel on the cover of the book. The pillar of the lighthouse stands at the center of the design, rising from swirling waves below.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë was published in 1847 under her pseudonym ‘Ellis Bell’. Emily Brontë’s name didn’t appear in the first edition and she died in 1848 just a year after it was published, at the age of 30. The first edition didn’t carry any picture and the later editions have tried to capture the old world charm and give the hostile eerie atmosphere that persists throughout the book.
Let’s talk about the Film Adaptation Covers. The film adaptation book covers are aimed at increasing sales. But, it seems dicey to me. Like ‘The Great Gatsby’ cover changed to the movie cast on the cover, sidelining the iconic work in a jiffy. These covers make me wonder if Leo Tolstoy could foresee Keira Knightley while writing ‘Anna Karenina’. Or, Emily Bronte imagining Tom Hardy to squeeze in to become the ‘dark and evil’ Heathcliff of ‘Wuthering Heights’.
Of course, there are also those books of which I get to know after watching the film adaptations like ‘P.S. I Love You’, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, etc. I came to know of ‘The Help’ after I saw the movie. ‘The Help’ written by Kathryn Stockett published in 2009 is about the lives of the African Americans working in the white households during the 1960s. When I looked at the first edition of the book cover of ‘The Help’, I adored it. The symbolism of birds worked beautifully. But, I am also not complaining of the cover of my copy, it is a photograph by Marion Post Wolcott Library of Congress FSA collection that I mistook for a scene from the film adaptation.
Now comes the unique book cover of ‘A House Unlocked’ by Penelope Lively. I picked this book from a book sale for the charm its cover held. There is the picture of a house in the wood engraving by Harry Brockway on the cover. There is absolutely no colour except black, bronze and silver, yet it is so appealing. A House Unlocked is an autobiographical book published in 2001. Penelope Lively writes about the house where she grew up linking it with some of the major world events. The wood engraving pictures also find a place inside the book, in between various sections.
Now coming to one of my favourite books. I was rather keen on reading ‘Moon Tiger’ by Penelope Lively as it had won the Booker Prize in 1987. But, looking at the first edition cover that depicts Egypt in an aesthetically unappealing painting, I wouldn’t have dared to buy it.
Bringing the post to an end, there are covers where minimalist designs and iconic imagery have worked well. While there are other designs where a lot of other elements have come together to leave a mark.
Certainly, the visual imagery on the cover is important for the book.
I am really thankful to you for reading the posts through this #A2Z challenge. Hope you would have enjoyed these posts!