Will changing the art work on the cover of a book entice people to buy the book? Over the years the literary classic The Great Gatsby (published in 1925) has had various book covers. The latest edition displays a glitzy photo of Leonardo DiCaprio who is starring in the film version of the story which is due out in May. Some booksellers are not certain which version of the book (cover) will attract public attention. In the following article people share their experiences and opinions concerning the changing art covers for The Great Gatsby.
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.
Excerpt: Judging ‘Gatsby’ by Its Cover(s) By Julie Bosman, The New York Times
“The Great Gatsby” has united generations of American readers with its crash-and-burn tale of empty elegance and impossible love on Long Island in the 1920s.
Now the novel 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 new edition is timed with the 3-D film adaptation, directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Mr. DiCaprio, that will arrive in theaters on May 10.
The new edition, with its Art Deco glitter, presents a stark choice for readers, as well as retailers who are trying to gauge the tastes of their customers. At stores like Barnes & Noble, with its nearly 700 outlets, both editions will be available. But at Walmart, only the movie tie-in edition will be stocked, a tacit acknowledgment that the discount chain’s customers want books that appear fresh and new (even if they happen to have been released in 1925). And at independent booksellers like McNally Jackson in SoHo, customers who want “The Great Gatsby” can purchase only the original: not a single copy of the new, cinematic edition will be for sale. It’s just God-awful,” Kevin Cassem, a bookseller at McNally Jackson, said on Tuesday. “ ‘The Great Gatsby’ is a pillar of American literature, and people don’t want it messed with. We’re selling the classic cover and have no intention of selling the new one.”
Movie tie-in editions are issued regularly in the book business, but rarely has the contrast between two covers of the same title been so pronounced.
The original art, by Francis Cugat, was completed before the manuscript, according to Scribner, a practice that is common in modern publishing but was rare at the time. The art was initially dismissed as “garish” by *Ernest Hemingway, who wrote in his memoir “A Moveable Feast” that he was “embarrassed by the violence, bad taste and slippery look of it.” It looked the book jacket for a book of bad science fiction,” Hemingway wrote…
While “Gatsby” has been subject to dozens of cover redesigns — and translated into 42 languages, producing covers that read “El Gran Gatsby” and “Gatsby le Magnifique” — it is the original cover that Scribner has kept in print… The tie-in edition is likely to appeal to “the new reader,” said Nan Graham, the publisher of Scribner. “The repeat reader is going to buy the classic cover,” she said in an interview. “A person who is more likely to buy the movie tie-in is reading it for the first time. In Walmart, this is the book you’re going to see.”
Sales history for movie tie-in editions of novels has been mixed. Original covers typically outperform tie-ins because they are on sale longer and because many consumers are reluctant to make a book purchase that appears to be inspired by the local multiplex… As publishers we’re always looking for new readers, and the transformation of a book into a film can exponentially increase consumer awareness…It begins with early press coverage of casting and shooting, and continues through to the film’s prerelease marketing campaign and theatrical run.” Read more…
Level: Intermediate -Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video.
Objective: Students will read the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through discussions, and writing.
Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Ask students to read the title of the post and of the article. Then, have them examine the photos of the various redesigns for the book The Great Gatsby. Based on these sources, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading
Directions:Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary or thesaurus for assistance. They might like to work with this whimsical Vocabulary Organizer by D. Mays!
- “The Great Gatsby” has united generations of American readers.
- The enigmatic blue cover of the original and the movie tie-in book that went on sale Tuesday are in conflict.
- The new edition, with its Art Deco glitter, presents a stark choice for readers.
- Retailers are trying to gauge the tastes of their customers.
- But at Walmart, only the movie tie-in edition will be stocked, a tacit acknowledgment that customers want books that appear fresh and new.
- Rarely has the contrast between two covers of the same title been so pronounced.
- The original art, by Francis Cugat, was completed before the manuscript, according to Scribner.
- E-book sales have been skyrocketing.
- There are some people who are reading all the time, and there are people who only read selectively.
- Publishers were trying to reach readers who might be more tuned into what was happening in Hollywood.
True / False/ NA
Directions: The following statements were taken from the article. If a statement is true, students write (T) if the information is not available, students write (NA). If a statement is false they write (F) and provide the correct answer from the article.
- The Great Gatsby was written in the 1990s.
- According to the article, the controversy has to do with the different artists.
- The new edition has the photo of F. Scott Fitzgerald on the cover.
- So far this year, sales of the paperback with the original jacket art have been extraordinary.
- At Walmart, both editions of the book will be stocked.
- Ernest Hemingway, stated that he was “embarrassed” by the current cover.
- According to the article, the tie-in edition is likely to appeal to the new reader.
- The Great Gatsby is frequently described as the greatest American novel.
- Sales history for movie tie-in editions of novels has been mixed.
- People usually read all of the time.
Using Adjectives to describe pictures
Directions: Place students in groups, and have them choose a picture from this lesson. Each group will write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives. As a class review the adjectives from each group, then share the paragraphs with the class. For a review of Adjectives visit ESL Voices Grammar
III. Post Reading
Reading Comprehension Check
WH-How Questions Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article. Who or What is the article about? Where does the action/event take place? When does the action/event take place? Why did the action/event occur? How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. After, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics.
- Based on your personal experience, do you buy a book mainly for the contents or for the artwork on the cover? Explain your reasons.
- Review all of the covers shown. Which one appeals to you the most? Why? Would you buy the book based on the cover that you chose?
- The article states that While “Gatsby” has been subject to dozens of cover redesigns… it is the original cover that Scribner has kept in print.” Why did the publisher keep the original cover?
- Looking at the first 2 covers (the new movie tie-in, and the original cover) which age group would most likely buy the new version, and which would buy the original? Provide reasons for your choices.
- Can you think of other books that have changed their original covers to advertise movies based on the story?
IV. Listening Activity
Video Clip: Movie trailer from the “Great Gatsby” with comments from director Baz Luhrmann. The movie is due in Cinemas May 16th 2013.
Multiple choice Directions: Have students listen to the trailer first, then again answering the questions by choosing the correct response from the ones provided.
Based on the movie trailer The Great Gatsby answer the following questions.
1. At the beginning, the man states he got an invitation from___
2. Everybody has their version of the Great Gatsby in their___
3. Gatsby tells the man if there anything you want just___
a. get it.
b. pay for it.
c. ask for it.
4. What does the phrase “do you want to sit on the sidelines or do you want to play ball?” mean as it’s used in this context?
a. Not do your part
b. just observe and not be actively involved in something
c. Don’t play baseball
5. Baz Luhrmann wanted the movie to feel___
b. old fashioned.
6. Baz Luhrmann admits that he drawn to___
a. tragic romances.
b. crime dramas.
7. Gatsby tells a man that he knows___
a. his life.
b. his strife.
c. his wife.
8. It was said that he threw all those parties hoping that she’d wander in one night. Who is the “he” the person is referring to?
a. The brother
c. Baz Luhrmann
9. It is stated that the world is so “lush and so intimate” that viewers feel they’re ___on these people’s lives.
b. ignoring in
c. joining with
10. The movie “The Great Gatsby” is described as having___
a. joy, violence, and happiness
b. passion violence and love
c. passion, hate, and jealousy
Post Listening Questions
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions.
- How would you describe the party scenes from this movie?
- How would you describe the people?
- Based on this trailer would you go and see the movie? Provide reasons why or why not.
ANSWER KEY : The Great Gatsby
Teaching The Great Gatsby– The New York Times Learning Network-Provides great ideas for teachers using the book in class.