There is a furore in the air because the Faber 50th anniversary edition of Sylvia Plath's classic novel The Bell Jar, about a young woman in the 1950s America of Eisenhower who suffers mental health issues (to put it mildly), features a cover designed for the Mad Men set: stylish, retro and also, quite light. The sense is, the design betrays the content, and cheapens lit by making it chick lit instead. Ill-lit, it should be, not bright and sassy. The Faber people claim the design is designed to reach young readers who might not know who Plath is, or have read her poetry - which seems a little unlikely as a sales aim - a bit like marketing Orwell to people who don't know much about Nineteen Eighty-Four with a cover of some slim sexy women in latex catsuits.
However, some argue, what does it matter if the book finds new readers? I guess the book and its cover issue raises a question - is there ever a cover not apt for an author? Would we ever see a Heaney book with a mink-clad moll on the cover, sipping a lipstick tinged martini glass? How about a Hughes book, with notches on a bed post, and a smoking cigarette in an ashtray, with some bullets spilled out across the bed beside a Luger? It seems unlikely the males of the stable would get the extreme makeover but then again, we are all waiting for the Lolita cover that really does it justice... aren't we?