by Derek Spencer
F. Scott's Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby is getting the big-budget Hollywood treatment, and the literary world is all in a tizzy over the cover for the movie tie-in edition of the book. The New York Times details what all the furor's all about:
NYT - "Judging 'Gatsby' by Its Covers"
Palpable outrage from some! Open derision from others! . . . And also some, you know, reasonable discussion. It's a cool article.
When Gatsby was first published, none other than literary luminary Ernest Hemingway denounced Gatsby's original cover — the one now being ardently defended by those who despise the new cover. Is the old cover truly far superior to the new, or are we incapable of divorcing our analysis from the thing's sheer cultural weight? Are we allowing tradition to cloud our judgment?
Well . . . I would say the old cover is indeed superior. One of the best aspects of the traditional cover is that it suggests one of the motifs used in the novel: the billboard displaying the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg. However, the eyes clearly belong to a lady — most likely Daisy Buchanan. The old cover has a timeless quality to it, one that the movie tie-in edition, with its emphasis on specific actors, cannot capture. The new cover is more like Gatsby's idealized version of Daisy: frozen at a specific moment in time.
And that's fine! While The Great Gatsby is a perennial favorite, the new film can only increase the novel's cultural profile and introduce this American Lit classic to a wider audience. If it takes some flashy images of Leo DiCaprio and co. to do it, well, I'm not too worried. Let's not forget: regardless of any book cover's artistic merit, the ideas on the pages inside are what counts. No new cover can change that.
(And at least the new cover incorporates some nifty Art Deco touches. It's not all bad.)
Which version do you prefer? Let us know what you think in the comments. And, as always, thanks for reading!