Thursday, June 28, 2012

Put Me Out to Pasture: The "Bella & Edward" Reference Goes Right Over My Head

To Lure ‘Twilight’ Teenagers, Classic Books Get Bold Looks. (The New York Times, 6/28/2012)

Excerpt: Teenagers are still reading the classics. They just don’t want them to look so, well, classic. 

That is the theory of publishers who are wrapping books like “Emma” and “Jane Eyre” in new covers: provocative, modern jackets in bold shades of scarlet and lime green that are explicitly aimed at teenagers raised on “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games.” 

The new versions are cutting edge replacements for the traditional (read: stuffy, boring) covers that have been a trademark of the classics for decades, those familiar, dour depictions of women wearing frilly clothing. In their place are images like the one of Romeo in stubble and a tight white tank top on a new Penguin edition of “Romeo and Juliet.”

A miscalculation?

Nevertheless, some teenagers have rejected the new editions. At Book Passage, a store with two outlets in the San Francisco Bay Area, a display of repackaged classics did not sell well, said the store’s owner, Elaine Petrocelli. 

 “If kids want to read ‘Emma,’ they want to buy it in the adult section, not the teen section,” she said. “Kids don’t want to feel like they’re being manipulated. it true?  Are teens/young adults still reading the classics.  More specifically, are they checking them out of the library?  Have you added any of these editions to your collection?

My 21-year-old son, who'll be a senior at UW-Madison in the fall, has read Slaughterhouse-Five and A Confederacy of Dunces so far this summer.  "Modern" classics, if you will.  (He purchased the former -- no copy on the shelf at his local public library and, eager to start, he didn't want to wait for a copy through delivery -- and read my copy of the latter.)

And here's the cover art of the Wuthering Heights Signet paperback I purchased (and read) in the early 1970s.


Stacey Lunsford said...

While I don't mind the idea of updating the covers to reflect current trends in graphic design, I don't care for the re-marketing of the storylines in order to compare them to something like Twilight. I think freshening the look of a classic book helps to underscore its timelessness. Trying to get teens to read classics by pretending they are just like the latest pop fiction does no good service to the reader or the work.

Blooming with Books said...

Yes teens still check out the classics and no our Library has not purchased the new blod look books.

Classics are popular with teens who are home-schooled and they also go out for school assignments.

Repackaging is not necessary, though the covers that look like pencil drawings are subtle with the new look as it is in the coloring and not the picture.