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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Book Covers: Misrepresentations?

I was at Powell's City of Books today and while perusing the shelves I noticed that some of books I was forced to read in high school had been redone with flashy new covers. What was disconcerting wasn't so much that the covers were new--that's just part of the "classics" sub-industry--but the kinds of covers. In particular was the cover for this edition of Lord of the Flies. If you click the link you'll see that they've designed the cover with an enormous fly and a caricature of what I assume is an English prep-school boy.

Oh, and did I mention that this book was in the science fiction/fantasy section? It's interesting, because while I can see some "fantastic" elements within this particular novel, I would never consider it to be fantasy or science fiction. Most people don't, actually, and for good reason--it lacks much of what is typical of the genres. But the cover for this particular version gives the impression that the novel itself is perhaps part of the New Weird movement, or at least some sort of fantasy or strange novel. True, Lord of the Flies is certainly strange, but not that strange!

I suppose my problem with this is that the impression given by the cover doesn't reflect well enough the novel itself. Maybe this is an illogical reaction to have. After all, perhaps giving a different impression of this particular book will bring more readers to the classics. That might be a good thing, or it might not (that depends on the reader).

What do you all think about misrepresentations on the covers of books? Are there other books you can think of where the cover did not match the book itself? Am I just being ridiculous?

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  1. I'd think the cover was fine, given everyone "knows" what the book is--except for its being shelved F/SF, at which point I'd be wondering if it was something just ripping off the name... then confused when the author was the same.

  2. Hmm, then maybe it's just me. I don't know, I just really dislike misrepresentations.

  3. When i was 13 i saw a book in our local bookstore. On its cover there was an old guy with white beard, a stick and a huge conic hat walking down a green road. I bought that book because of its cover. It was LOTR.

  4. I've been disappointed in books I was drawn to by the cover, and nearly haven't bought books I came to love.
    I think that makes me initially inclined to agree that book covers shouldn't be misrepresenting a book. On the other hand I am all for experimentation. I can sort of see why they went for genre fiction with this. I think it would appeal to a lot of the same readership.

  5. I think most book buyers should already know what Lord of the Flies is. And if a cover like that gets young people to read it outside of being "forced to" in the classroom, I see nothing wrong with it.

    I do find it interesting that it was shelved in sci fi. It usually goes the other way. However, it does have some sci fi elements, but I bet you would also find it in the literature section.

  6. Shannon: I suspect that at Powell's they put it in both sections. I didn't look, but I noticed that for some books by authors who are known to write SF or F of the literary vein they put them in both the lit section and the SF section. It's curious indeed.

    Mugene: What language is that?

    Hagelrat: Yeah, I guess there's something good about it though, because it will get folks to read it who might not have ever read it due to it being a school book.

  7. It is a turkish cover for LOTR (Fellowship of The Ring) :)

  8. Ah, okay. Thanks Mugene!

  9. Anonymous7:25 PM

    I don't think the cover is a misrepresentation. The Lord of the Flies is a demonic symbol, and the way the giant fly is positioned on the kid kind of looks like it's whispering into his ear--so the cover is fine in my opinion.

    However, I would not classify it as F/SF. It should be considered just plain, straight-up "literature."


  10. Croc: I agree with you on how to classify/shelf the book. I don't know if I agree with the cover, per se, but I guess I see what you're saying.