There has been controversy over Faber's recent 50th anniversary edition of Sylvia Plath's partially autobiographical novel The Bell Jar. The criticisms have mostly centred on how this new cover, complete with red lipstick, compact and joyfully haphazard cursive script, makes the book look too much like 'chick lit.'
And, well, yes, yes it does.
This seems foolish for two reasons: 1) It gives the wrong impression of the sentiment or plot of the book, and 2) It's going to confuse the hell out of people who have never read it before.
Someone wonders round Waterstones the weekend before their trip to Majorca trying to pick out a couple of 3-for-2's to gently read on the beach between drinks and dips in the ocean. They pick up this copy of The Bell Jar. They think, 'ooh, this looks nice. I did like that chocolate book they made of the film with that lovely Johnny Depp and that French bird in. Just pop in the basket....' Then, days later, they are confronted by one of the rawest and most accurate descriptions of depression to have made it into popular literary culture.
Perhaps this is good, you are thinking? Perhaps it is good to lure people in with the promise of badly written sex scenes and Jane Austin rip-offs. And, like, yeah. Maybs you're right. Totes blates this will attract a different kind of audience to the book and, sure, that can only be a good thing. But it doesn't seem very honest or accurate. In fact, it reminds me of the trailer to The Shining that has been re-cut to make it look like a romantic comedy. Gets in a new bunch of people (and wallets), but not exactly appropriate for the content.
A more representative cover was in fact already used by Faber and Faber when they took the book up in 1966, by in-house designer Shirley Tucker. The cover and an interview with Tucker are below. So why the U-Turn, Fabes, ehy?