Odyssey Online

Another Post on the Great Gatsby

June 14, 2013 · No Comments

In an earlier post this summer I used the famous Great Gatsby cover known to so many readers.  This week in The Atlantic Edward Tenner (a writer who I’ve linked to often) has a piece on this cover, and the artist, Francis Cugat.  The original is on display in the Rare Book and Special Collections department at Princeton University, and it turns out that Fitzgerald was aware of the cover, and in communication with Cugat about it.

In the article Tenner also quotes a design named Chip Kidd wondering out loud about the future of cover design…Kidd doesn’t see one in a world where readers turn to e-books.  There are certainly no shortage of digital images of book cover art out there on the ‘net (things like the Book Cover Archive),  but as working commonplace art are book covers going the way of the rotary telephone.

Writer James Wolcott is crediting with saying, “Book jacket design may become a lost art, like album cover design, without which the late 20th century iconography would have been pauperized.”  It doesn’t seem like there’s much a place for cover art online, the image shrunk to a thumbnail (size of a postage stamp?), certainly covers like the one pictured here are evocative of a type of books (old paperbacks), and the Cugat cover of the Great Gatsby is evocative of the time and place for each reader, time and place they read the book.   The cover is part of the experience of reading a book, the idea of the book, even a mass produced edition, being itself a unique item, tangible.  If books become ethereal-digital that it would follow that cover art would evaporate.  Sigh…It has to be said that disembodied text is a much more generalized experience that print text, will that pauperize reading as an experience?

Categories: Books · Essay on Bibliography