Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Anachronisms

Just a quick post/question: what do people think about wildly and deliberately anachronistic cover images? Here, for example, are two recent-ish Modern Library Classics editions of nineteenth-century Russian novellas, but with decidedly 21st-Century covers which, while thematically appropriate, are obviously not at all accurate for the contents of the books.



They make a pleasant change from the usual old paintings on classics covers, but do they work?

17 comments:

Matt said...

I hate it. There are better ways to contemporize the books.

Sean Mills said...

I agree its a pleasant change of pace, but of these two images I prefer the second one.

If there were slightly more stable looking compositions I think it would work even better. Contemporary photographs would be fine, but the top one reminds me of a graphic design class portfolio piece.

Levi Stahl said...

I've really liked the bottom one since I first saw it a while back, but that's in part because to me it performs a larger function than making it look contemporary: it specifically refers to the reality that the region Tolstoy's writing about has been riven by conflict almost constantly since time immemorial. (Oh, and Hadji Murat is the absolute best._

The top image, on the other hand, while eye-catching set against the staid Modern Library template, feels to me like trying a bit too hard.

The first modern image on a classic book that I can remember seeing was, of all things, a Hackett edition of of the Iliad.. It was the first Hackett I'd ever seen with an actual cover design, and it was built around a photo of a D-Day lander.

Dracula said...

I don't care very much for cover art that makes use of stock photos or photos of models, so I can't comment on these covers without bias (although, like Sean, I prefer the second one; it's not so blatantly "This is the Sort of Thing that Gets Younger People to Read!" which is a turnoff in and of itself). That said, I'm not against the concept of an anachronistic cover at all, provided it's done properly. Actually, I'm not against anything that's done properly.

Ian Shimkoviak said...

It's gotta be a balance.

Emma said...

The second guy is really hot. The first guy is revolting. So, probably I would be more likely to buy the second book even though I have no idea what it's actually about — which is the trouble with glossing the cover of your Literary Novel with a modern ad-type photo. (Not that the book may not be utterly fantastic, of course.) Books didn't start out life needing to advertise themselves via their covers; I believe there may even be a little saying immortalizing that idea. Now, though, most of them could sell toothpaste.

What about covers which feature historical paintings/artworks that are also anachronistic? I've seen Austen covered by Monet. It was sad.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree, the guy in the second photo is hot.

That is all I have to add to the discussion

jb said...

Ugh. The bottom one's not bad at all, but that top one is just awful. And, for all their attempts to be 'modern', it already looks out of date.

JRSM said...

That's a good point--any image which depends on current ideas of what looks cool is never going to last well on the shelf.

bp mills said...

pathetic covers. I think the publisher is playing to the vanity of today's youth.

Biblibio said...

It's an interesting idea, but I'm not convinced. I also prefer the bottom image by a wide margin (both in terms of the image itself, and because I think it sets a better mood), but the strong colors on both and the sheer modernness on the covers of classics... it's bold. It's kind of exciting, even. These covers will certainly grab the reader's attention. As sick as I am of those bland old paintings, I'm still not convinced this is the right way to go...

Lunerousse said...

A while ago 10/18 in France did a series of de Sade covers featuring extreme close-ups of modern appliances. Anachronistic and incongruous, but to me they conveyed a very effective sense of bizarre, claustrophobic queasiness:

http://www.amazon.fr/Les-120-journ%C3%A9es-Sodome-Sade/dp/2264026995/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1338582000&sr=8-8

JRSM said...

Biblibio, I think you're right: they've definitely got something here, it's just not quite right yet.

Lunerousse, those de Sades are very effective! I might have to do a post on them.

fuchsboi said...

Neither of these covers work for me. I want a cover that sets the tone, but without misleading me in other ways. If period accuracy is creating an issue with book sales of these books, then there are other ways to achieve a contemporary look. There is absolutely no reason to cover a book with an image that doesn't make any connection to it.

These two, as well as many similarly covered classics I've seen, miss the mark terribly. They aren't the horrible mistake of the Twilight tie-in classics, but I would never buy one of them and would opt for almost any other copy.

Of course, I'm extremely opinionated... about everything.

MissDisco said...

They look like they belong to Tutis or someone equally appalling.

Anonymous said...

I guess they work if your target readership is the Abercrombie & Fitch wearer.

Anonymous said...

"What about covers which feature historical paintings/artworks that are also anachronistic? I've seen Austen covered by Monet. It was sad."

Agree with Emma....this bugs me no end.