The Art of Persuasion [updated] • 3 April 2007 • The SnowBlog

The Art of Persuasion [updated]

Here's a thing. I went to my local bookshop today - which happens to be Borders - intending to buy two books. I came away without buying either. They weren't out of stock. No. But the editions on offer were just so ugly I couldn't talk myself into paying money for them. The first was Persuasion by that Austen bird. I watched the version on the TV the other night and thought it was so wonderful I decided to re-read the novel. Sally Hawkins was so perfect: not too pretty for her character, totally capable and sensible, but vulnerable and trembly at all the right moments. Rupert whatsit was great too. Sigh. So here's my first choice if I want to buy the book:
Penguin Version
I tried, but that painting is too off-putting. With Sally Hawkins in my mind's eye, I couldn't make a picture of a schoolboy with an impossibly long neck, upholstered with a peculiar mono-bosom, into Anne Elliott. It's the least problematic of the covers on offer, but it's not a crowd-pleaser I would say.

Next we have this:
penguin2 persuasion.jpg
It's even worse seen close up. Check out the eyelashes.

And finally:
Headline Persuasion.jpg
I think of this one as 'Anne Elliott the Teenage Witch'. It's part of a series of Austen done in pale pinks and mauves, with sprinkles and stars on them. I just have one too many y-chromosomes for this - not to mention I'm about three decades too old.

So that's Austen. The other thing I wanted to do was re-read Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. I really enjoyed this in about 1989 and I wanted to see if it was as good as I remember. Well, it's just as I remember it: at the least the typesetting is. It's that fuzzy, blurry typesetting from twenty years ago and nothing whatsoever has been done to crispen it up. The cover too is just as I remember it. Sometime in the last year or so, Pan Mac must have sent this off to print using the same battered film they've been working with since Margaret Thatcher was P.M. 

It's particularly weird when you look at the re-designed Lee Child or Terry Pratchett books. And check out Misery by Stephen King. It looks like Truman Capote wrote it.
What's going on?

Em has very kindly provided me with her copy of Persuasion. It's a Penguin edition from 1992 and it has a very inoffensive painting of cottages by the crashing sea on the front cover. The cover's not beautiful, it's just muted and simple and exactly what I expected to find in a book that's coming up on two hundred years old. I mean, surely no one says to themselves 'I don't know who this Jane Austen person is, but the cover looks unusual and eyecatching; I'll buy it.' You already know what you're getting with most classics, so shouldn't they all have a 'collectables' feel to them? Or at least be unlikely to annoy anyone. 

Anyway, the unbelievable bonus is that Em's copy is the one she used for school, so all the important passages are underlined, all the possible good quotes are identified AND any instances of 'imagery' are clearly labelled. It's going to bring a whole new dimension to Austen. Thanks Em. 


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