How Penguin Classics Ruined Classics By Trying to be Trendy, and other horrors of the publishing world.
I've mentioned horrible book covers before, namely Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World, but there was at least an excuse for that one. That was the first edition of that particularly horrendously covered book. Sadly, I saw new-old atrocities staring at me from the shelves of a recent and all-to-rare excursion to Borders.
Readers, I give you the new renditions of:
A Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne as ruined by Penguin Classics
They've had the same author do Pride and Prejudice as well as Wuthering Heights. For some reason, the latter two covers do not bother me nearly as badly as The Scarlet Letter's redo. It seems that more muted colors were used, for one thing. I guess since Hester Prynne was a seamstress maybe Mr. Ruben Toledo (or perhaps I should say Mr. Mrs. Isabel Toledo) decided that this cover should just be fabulous to capture Prynne's creative spark.
Somehow I doubt he realized how uptight the Puritans were. I mean, just look at those slutty bare arms and that wild loose hair; if that's not just begging to be burned at the stake, I don't know what is. I think maybe I'm angry because I actually really love this book. I would gladly chop up and burn every single piece and part of the Custom's House chapter, but I remember devouring the rest of this book upstairs in my maternal grandparents' computer room between 8th and 9th grade. There is such beautiful and complex imagery in this novel, but this cover just doesn't fit. It is a bad suit of clothes on an otherwise insightful, if somewhat morose, person. Somewhat surprising given Toledo's career a fashion illustrator. The redone Scarlet Letter gets an F in my grade book. Hell, if you're going to give it a cover like this, at least provide illustrations to go along with the text. Kids are going to pick this up thinking there's updated text or something extra and will be angry as hell that's it's the same stupid copy everyone else is reading, but with a fruitier cover.
HarperCollins apparently did two of these barf-books, but since I can't find the other one on their site I'll just post the one. You people are clever and can do your own image searches and all. Sadly, this particular campaign seems to have actually worked, and although you can't see it in this particular image there are medals on the books that say "Edward and Bella's favorite book." Wow. Oh, and you Austen-ites will be happy to know that they gave the same treatment to Pride and Prejudice. "Beautifully presented for a modern teen audience" indeed.
I'm all for modern covers on classics, but this is just ridiculous. I mean, honestly, the Twilight-themed covers are only pathetic because they're riding on another trend and have very little to do with Meyer's "writing." If fucking Pride and Prejudice can't stand on it's own and needs a new cover to move some copies, then maybe it shouldn't be considered a classic anymore.
Readers, what do you think? Other-book-themed covers a good idea? What about inappropriately cheerful and/or non-content related covers (geometric designs excluded of course)? Are you totally pissed that I wrote an entire blog post about nothing but covers? Because I'm not. I think this shit is both hilarious and infuriating at the same time. It certainly doesn't say anything positive about our buying habits if they assume that this ploy will actually work (it definitely doesn't say much when it already has worked. For the love of god you can get used copies of classics for 50 cents).