Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wuthering WTF

Um... WHAT is happening here?
I innocently enter one of those Hudson Booksellers shops in the airport (um, Fresno? Sacramento? LAX? can't remember--there have been many airports in the past two months), and am confronted with this confusing display. Is that... my favorite novel? All sexed up like so? Right next to that monumental work of genius Big Girls Don't Cry? Alphabetization is definitely working it here. But I don't think that's the source of my confusion. Let's get a closer look.

It's kind of gothic-pretty. I think I like it. But why is Cathy dressed like a gypsy shrew? What's up with the flapper beads and the wild straight-from-the-moors hairdo?

And what's up with Heathcliff sporting the rebel-without-a-cause rockabilly-in-a-vampire-cape look? I'm so confused. This is what happens with Penguin makes a formidable marketing decision like "let's sex up that oldie-but-goodie that no one really reads anymore by having a famous fashion illustrator redo the cover."

Here's the bookflap's justification: "This book is part of a series of Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions designed with original cover art in watercolor, pencil, or ink by world-renowned fashion illustrator Ruben Toledo. blah blah name dropping blah... Toledo and his designer wife, Isabel Toledo, whose dress and coat were selected by Michelle Obama to wear at the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, are the subject of a book and a museum exhibition entitled 'Toledo/Toledo: A Marriage of Art and Fashion.' blah blah... Ruben Toledo's book design for Penguin Classics represents the marriage of art and fashion to literature. His couture-inspired interpretations of these beloved classic characters and novels contribute a uniquely creative vision to the long history of excellence in book design at Penguin."

So just because Toledo's wife designed the coat Michelle Obama wore at her husband's inauguration, we're supposed to buy this new edition of Wuthering Heights? Since when does political celebrity name-dropping/the fashion industry yield a new interest in a Victorian novel? Do Toledo's illustrations update the story? Will Penguin's fashionista-piquing gamble work in an era of recessionista self-denial? Do fashionistas even read? (Shameless plug: check back in December for my MLA gofugyourself posts) This writer did not succumb, but then LOOK WHAT SHE'S WEARING!

**UPDATE (May 30, 2010)**
This just found, via The Floating Academy: an article from the Guardian about another new cover for Wuthering Heights and the "Twilight Effect."