When Bad Covers Happen to Good Books

Ever thought a book was too ugly to read? Joe Queenan found that he couldn’t get through The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a book he knew to be a masterpiece, and one he had read before. What was the problem? The packaging.

Every time I picked up the book, my eyes were lured back to those fulsome photos of Sugarplum Huck. I do not know what Huck looked like as Twain imagined him, any more than I know how F. Scott Fitzgerald envisioned Jay Gatsby. But Gatsby cannot look like Robert Redford, and the most memorable character in American fiction cannot look like the diabolically cuddly Elijah Wood. Cannot, cannot, cannot.

I’ve had my share of books like that over the years. I’ve always felt a little silly about it, but at least I’m not alone.

It works the other way, too: I recently bought an edition of Bronte’s Wuthering Heights just because I liked the cover so much. In my defense, it is a classic and no different than taking a chance on any other book you haven’t read. And, as it turns out, it comes from a collection of deluxe classics from Penguin which includes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

12.08.2009Tagged with: