Last week, the New York Times reported that The Great Gatsby “is dividing the nation’s booksellers with dueling paperback editions: the enigmatic blue cover of the original and the movie tie-in book that went on sale Tuesday, a brash, flashy version with Leonardo DiCaprio front and center.” The hero of the story was Kevin Cassem at New York’s McNally Jackson Books, who explained, “We’re selling the classic cover and have no intention of selling the new one.” Mr. Cassem, saying what we’ve all been thinking, added: “I think it would bring shame to anyone who was trying to read that book on the subway.”
Not surprisingly, these feelings are not shared by the people of Wal-Mart, who don’t tend to evaluate things based on subway cred, and more often think in terms of amassing “fresh green” that is “commensurate to [their] capacity for wonder.” The mega store will be selling the novel in the Leonardo DiCaprio cover and only the Leonardo DiCaprio cover, which, honestly, will be much more effective at luring people into a story that couldn’t be further from everyday low prices.
The good news in all of this is that people are talking about The Great Gatsby and thinking about good, old fashioned book covers. At this point in the year, sales of Gatsby are projected to put it among the best selling books of the year, allowing it to serve as “a literary palate cleanser to follow 2012, when the American book-buying public gorged on the Fifty Shades erotica series.”
Over the years, there have been many different covers of The Great Gatsby, some greater than others. The Times again has the scoop, and has collected images of the book from over the years and around the world.
(FYI — McNally Jackson’s Book of the Month is Renata Adler’s Speedboat, which Brian Hurley is excited to tell you all about.)
– Michael Moats