book covers

Commodity Conrad

Penguin Classics Cover of Heart of Darkness

Image Credit: Phil Hale

As an avid and generous reader of Joseph Conrad, I don't like Phil Hale's cover art for the most recent Penguin Classic releases. It's not the artist either. Hale can credit to his name some wonderful portraits and figures. No, the problem is that Hale took too much for his own that ubiquitous but injurious reading of Conrad, which became prevalent pretty much from day one: namely that Conrad is a DIFFICULT author (woe to the author who wins that terrible epithet!), and this predominantly because Conrad's prose, like Hale's writhing, headless corpse-like figures, is TORTURED. A few of the more famous modernists said some very dismissive things along these lines about Conrad, and it is our misfortune to have inherited their anxiety of influence as authoritative judgment. But Conrad's prose is compelling, immediate and alive! Yes, it's true and I state it with certainty. Conrad is not difficult, he is rewarding. Kipling said reading him is like reading a great author in a first-rate translation: that is to say, you get two arts for the price of one. But Hale's covers can turn off even me from reading one of my favorite authors, such a forbidding, cold, and painful experience do they promise. Cold War Conrad fared much better than his postmodern iteration, so far as book covers are concerned. And the original editions achieved an attractiveness which has never been matched. I'll show you. Come along.

Sex Sells?: Reading Romance Over the Covers

Kristine Mills-Noble looks at cover art

Image Credit: Screencap from Vimeo

H/T: Andrew Sullivan

I thought after my last post on Ryan Gosling that I’d be able to move on to more academic subjects, but when I saw Andrew Sullivan’s post on “The Market for Romance” I couldn’t let it pass. In my Women’s Popular Genres literature class last year I taught Fay Weldon’s wickedly funny novel The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, which tells the story of Ruth, a woman who gets revenge on her husband after he leaves her for a romance novelist. I wanted to pair it with an actual romance novel, but wasn’t sure I could find something that would sustain close reading. However, I think a rhetorical approach to the romance novel—especially its cover—reveals some interesting things.

Lolita's Legs and Cover Images

Stanley Kubrick movie poster for Lolita

Movie poster from Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation of the novel Lolita

Having just finished teaching Lolita again, I find myself thinking about representations of Dolores Haze and of the novel. While my classroom discussions often revolve around how Humbert Humbert depicts her character, I'm interested here in the related issue of how publishers (and movie producers) metonymically depict the work through the image of a girl.

Some potentially NSFW images after the break.

Recent comments