The potency of cheap paperback covers

in-our-time

When I started reading Ernest Hemingway, the editions that fell into my teenaged hands were the paperbacks issued under the Scribner Library Contemporary Classics imprint. During the summer between my junior and senior years in high school I was almost never without one of these editions, and whenever I read or even think of For Whom the Bell Tolls, it conjures a double memory: Robert Jordan lying on a hillside in the mountains of Spain, listening to the wind stirring the tops of the pine trees, and the younger me stretched out on a blanket at Darlington Lake, hearing the wind stir the tops of the  trees as I read.

 The nostalgia factor is so strong for me that I stopped dead in my tracks last summer when I spotted the above edition of In Our Time on a swim club book-swap rack. While I’m not actively seeking them out, I’ll probably snap up these editions whenever I see them.

a-farewell-to-arms

The curious thing is that these paperback covers, in contrast with the Ballantine Adult Fantasy titles I rhapsodized about a few months ago, really aren’t very good. In fact, they’re pretty lame — Sunday painter kind of stuff. Which is remarkable, considering that Hemingway is one of the star authors in the Scribner catalogue, maybe even the star author. But even though later editions sported different, substantially better cover art, these rather schlocky looking things will always twang my heartstrings just a bit whenever I see them.

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2 thoughts on “The potency of cheap paperback covers

  1. I love these. My prized copy is an edition of Men Without Women I bought at the gift shop at Hemingway’s house on Key West.

  2. Bill Fogle says:

    I had this same experience, of being a high school student and knowing these covers … long before I had any overview of American literature. They are major visual memories for me. The paintings remind me of being 16, in a book shop. Powerful stuff.

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