With a primarily white literary canon, it's important we acknowledge the problematic tendencies of these three well-loved classics; and read them in conjunction with authors of color.
I have a confession to make: I judge books by their covers. I know, I know, it’s a cardinal sin—but I can’t help it. When I see a book with big shiny letters and a chiseled man toting a gun, I think spy novel. When I see two lovers clasping each other over a curly cue font, I think bawdy romance. When I see an artsy photo with minimalist typeface, I think indie novel.
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A good cover hints at what to expect from a book. It is, effectively, a marketing tool. But it’s also much more than that. The cover of a book can affect the way you read it. When I read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, for example, I was haunted by the emaciated figure on the book’s jacket. The cover stuck with me throughout my reading, and I came to associate the plot with this disturbing image.
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Think about the first Harry Potter book (the US edition). Many fans of the series fell in love with that scruffy haired wizard on the cover as they pictured him embarking on his adventures. Book jackets can be visual aids to the reader, and they can also be cultural touchstones. If I were to ask you to visualize The Catcher in The Rye, chances are the iconic image of the red carousel horse on the front cover would pop up in your head. This cover draws special attention to The Catcher in The Rye’s climactic scene and encapsulates the novel’s loss of innocence theme. It comes to represent the story as a whole.
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A book’s cover shouldn’t be disregarded as a marketing tool. It is, effectively, part of the book itself. By no means does a cover reflect the quality of writing found in a book, but, whether we like it or not, it does change the way we read it.
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“I love the smell of napalm in the morning”
Joseph Conrad’s classic novella, Heart of Darkness is getting adapted into an animated feature. The book has previously inspired quotable films such as Apocalypse Now and, dare I say, Tropic Thunder? The narration is experimental-ish. An unnamed narrator tells the story of Charles Marlow who ends up telling another story. #framednarrative.
Marlow’s story begins with him explaining to his shipmates how he became captain of the Nellie, a steamboat for an ivory trading company. He tells the story of his journey down the Congo into the heart of Africa as well as his weird obsession with the ivory trader/visionary (not really) Kurtz, whose legend only seems to grow as the novella progresses.
Basically, he’s just a crazy person who convinces a bunch of natives he is a God. The novella was originally distributed as a three-part serial story, Conrad’s story took a hard look at British imperialism and racism. His argument was that there really isn’t much difference between the civilized world and the seemingly “uncivilized.”
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According to the Hollywood Reporter, actors Michael Sheen (married Kate Beckinsale once), Matthew Rhys (The Americans), and Andrew Scott (Sherlock) are set to voice the animation with award-winning director Gerald Conn will be at the helm. Apparently, some sort of sand will be used in the film’s depiction. Very appropriate given the setting. Sheen will voice Kurtz, Scott a Russian sailor, Rhys a relative of Marlow’s while Marlow himself is yet to be cast. The adaption has been written by Mark Jenkins and Mary Kate O Flanagan; it is set to premiere at the European Film Market in Berlin next month.
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Other than Apocalypse Now, nothing too significant has been done with Conrad’s story in recent memory. The Francis Ford Coppola directed Apocalypse Now was a very loose adaption that revolved around the Vietnam War—-Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Dennis Hooper, Robert Duvall, Harrison Ford I vaguely remember Harrison Ford being in there at some point. It will be cool to see what Conn and company do with the animated approach. I doubt song and dance will be involved.
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