As 2021 begins, publishers with an eye on the high school English market are celebrating: The great gatsby is now in the public domain.
Quickly separated from copyright concerns, new editions of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classics are being published by public publishers. But time to release again Gatsby it brings a new challenge: figuring out how to cover a book whose original cover is an image.
“Everyone knows the reason with the scary eyes,” said Greil Marcus, the author of Under the Red White and Blue: Patriotism, Disenchantment and the Stubborn Myth of the Great Gatsby. Francis Cugat’s 1925 gouache cover, with his large eyes looking up into the deep blue sky, screaming a line of green over a red and glowing mouth, is one of book cover that immediately appears to have been created. In part, that’s because it evokes exactly the same sense of Jazz Age decadence that Fitzgerald’s story conjures. “There’s a sense of money and luxury,” Marcus said. “There is a sense of opulence, not so much freedom as indulgence.”
Cugat paint is not the only coating The great gatsby it was found. It went in other ways – most of them, says Marcus, about cocktail glasses, perhaps in an attempt to see the kind of opulence created by the original cover. But since Cugat’s cover was resurrected for a paperback reissue in 1979, it became the image most people think of first. Gatsby. And none of the publishers of the new thing Gatsby Books can be used.
So they went dark and minimalist.
Modern Library’s latest edition of The great gatsby a ’20s car emerges from the darkness, its headlights peering out of the hood like Dr. TJ Eckleburg’s eyes. On the bestselling cover of Penguin Classics, a portrait of Gatsby turns his head away from us and we can’t see his face, only the brim of his hat. And in the Penguin Classics trade paperback edition, there is no image: just the title, with fully-filled letters stretching and flattening between Art Deco figures.
Coming up with a new approach was a “disturbing” experience, says Nathan Burton, who designed the Penguin Classics mass market cover.
“Original design is one of the most iconic and recognizable book covers of all time,” said Chris Brand, the VP and chief creative officer at Random House who oversaw Modern Library’s new book cover. “It’s a shame to change at first.”
Brand said he briefly considered trying to recreate the original Cugat painting for Modern Library, perhaps by hiring a contemporary artist to reinterpret it for the 21st century. out, he said, he wanted something black.
“He likes the idea of showing the Valley of Ashes instead of the glitz and glam you usually associate with it. Gatsby“said Brand, referring to the poor Fitzgerald slum that defines about halfway between glitzy Manhattan and wealthy West Egg. “We ended up with a cover that does a little bit of both, where The car symbolizes a time and a look very much associated with Gatsby, but with typography that feels modern and minimalist.”
In contrast, Burton says he hit upon the idea for his cover, with Gatsby turning his eyes away from the viewer, almost instantly. He made several small sketches of Gatsby as he read, trying to put them in the right place. “I just wanted to put him on the cover somewhere, but he wasn’t in the front,” Burton said. “I like to play with angles and shadows.”
His leads from the publisher, he says, are few. “The brief I have is that they want to appeal more to high school students and adults,” he said. “And they also want to sell at a lower price, so there are things I can’t do. [that would increase printing costs]according to usage [metallic] dishes. It’s good if the cover stands on its own.
Burton designed a mass market cover, which is the cheapest of the book and is often recommended for classroom use. But the other Penguin Classics edition is a trade paperback, which supports a higher price – and in this case, beautiful French flaps. (French covers are the cover extension of a sheet of paper folded into a book, like a coat of arms on a hardcover. They are expensive!) So for this edition, the cover designer Mario De Meyer creates a The concept is used not only for the room of the front cover, but on the other side of the spine, the back cover, and on the flaps as well. That’s why he turned to typography.
“I treated it as a grand plan that is only a small part of the overall plan,” says De Meyer. “This gave me a place to create some images, to tell a little about the story, and to give something mysterious and exciting.”
Will any of these new covers become as iconic as the original Cugat? That remains to be seen. But the way everyone tries to play with the different elements of the book is to say, says Marcus, a part of what is given. Gatsby constant power.
“None of the characters are fully fleshed out and there’s no room for the reader to think about who they are, how they’re doing,” Marcus said. “We put ourselves in this book. And artist after artist said, ‘Well, I think this that’s the way it is.’”