This month’s discussion for the November’s Autumn Classics Challenge is all about book covers:
- What are your first impressions as you look at the cover?
- Does the book cover have an aspect that reflects the character, setting, or plot of the novel?
- If you could have designed the book cover what would you have chosen?
Let’s just dig right in, since I am so thoroughly frustrated with having spent so much time reading Vanity Fair this month.
My first impression as I look at the cover is one of boredom–much like my attitude concerning many parts of the book. My edition of Vanity Fair is the QPB (Quality Paperback Book Club) Classics edition; it’s obscurity forced me to take an actual photo of my book, as I couldn’t even find a picture of the cover on the internet. The photo on the cover of the book shows a portion of a table, covered with a table cloth that is all bunched up, on which sit the following: some candles in a fancy candelabra, one of the candles askew; two bunches of grapes (grapes that were never mentioned in the book, I don’t think, although I probably wouldn’t remember at this point if the grapes had played a prominent role); a pair of dice; and some other things that might be jewelry or other trinkets.
The items in the cover photo do pertain to certain aspects of the story. I suppose the table is meant to look like it was set up for a fancy meal. The grapes represent the food served (I guess? A leg of mutton or some turtle soup would have been a better representation, but who wants to look at a leg of mutton on a book cover?); the dice represent the gambling that goes on throughout much of the book, which also brings about the ruin of more than one character; the random pieces of jewelry/trinkets represent the high society of which the book pokes fun; and I would guess that the crooked candle is meant to represent the idea that everything in high society is not as perfect as those folks would have us believe.
I have no clear vision of what the cover would look like if I had to choose. It took me all month to read this book (for reasons that will be discussed when I write about my actual experience and thoughts), so my chosen cover would be designed in total frustration right now. Maybe one of those fake, genteel folks giving us a big yawn (which would represent how the book made me feel at different times)? A painting or drawing of Amelia and Becky in a boxing ring, duking it out? Amelia and Becky, each with a small angel on one shoulder and a little devil on the other? A large, fancy dinner table, piled with food, surrounded by people in fancy clothes?
Here are some covers of other editions of Vanity Fair (click to view larger images):
I think the people on this cover are supposed to be Major Dobbin and Amelia, but I’m not sure. There were so many men going after so many women in the story that this could just be two random people, representing the wooing of women by men in the military. There was a lot of that in Vanity Fair. This cover is nicer than mine, but still a bit boring.
What is going on in the cover to the right? It looks like a group of people bum-rushing a carriage, maybe in an attempt to tip it over…except it’s happening in a house or something. I really have no idea what’s going on here. Lot’s of excitement (of which there was some in the story), but excitement over what? I don’t remember any riots happening in the book; there was no bum-rushing, or carriage-tipping, or any other major excitement that gave me a mental image that looked anything like this one.
Now this is a cover that I like. This must be a representation of the notorious Becky Sharp: black hair, dress, and choker (black = evil/impure); bare shoulders. This woman looks like she could have a disreputable side, doesn’t she? I also like the overall look of the painting, the background, and the way the title and author’s name take up a fair portion of the cover. This look is just as simple as the look of my edition’s cover, but with much more appeal. This is my second favorite of all the covers shown here.
This last cover to the right is my favorite. Again, I have no idea what is going on here–people are running up and down a staircase that doesn’t seem to be attached to anything above or below–but those ladies at the bottom who have tripped (or been shoved) are showing their bare bottoms. Yes, you read that correctly. If you have never seen this cover before, I assure you that those ladies who are falling at the bottom of the stairs aren’t wearing any undergarments, and their big, bare bottoms are out there for the rest of high society to have a good look at. When I found this cover in my search for the QPB cover, I giggled like a little kid seeing someone else’s bare butt for the first time. I have no idea why this was chosen for cover art, because there are no women falling down stairs and showing their rosy bottoms in the story. Again, maybe those “fallen women” are meant to represent the quick fall one can take out of high society for the lamest reason–like suddenly losing one’s fortune, or having a mother who was an opera singer. I’m not sure what the lack of underwear is supposed to represent, though.
What do you think? Have you read Vanity Fair? Did you like the cover of the edition you read? Do you like any of the covers I have included here? Do you have any idea what is going on in the bum-rushing cover?
If you’re unfamiliar with the November’s Autumn Classics Challenge, here are the other posts I have written in past months:
- November’s Autumn Classics Challenge: Ralph Ellison (January)
- The Age of Innocence: Inspired Correspondence (February)
- I was a slacker and skipped March’s prompt