Charlie and the Chocolate Factory What The

Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryBook covers are something of an obsession for writers, editors, and booksellers. A good cover sells itself, achieving the almost elusive combination of intrigue and aesthetic that makes you itch to pluck the book from the shelf to read its contents.

Creating such a cover is, of course, part design skill, part muse-inspired, and part magic, which makes good ones much lauded and bad ones much not lauded.

The new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover due to be launched on September 4 is, based on the internet’s thunderously unanimous reaction, clearly the latter (which seems especially depressing given how iconic Quentin Blake‘s illustrations have been to date).

I’ll not deny I’m more than a little confused by the cover. For a bunch of reasons. (If you haven’t yet seen it, it’s got a Lolita-ilk doll front and centre, with a woman doll’s body partially visible.)

One reason I’m puzzled is because I genuinely couldn’t tell what was going on with the cover—to whom do the various limbs belong, and why does it look like the girl doll is sitting between the legs of the woman doll?

Another is because the cover’s a newly commissioned, freshly minted update to celebrate the book’s 50th anniversary. That is, it’s a fancy version of a cover of a perennially bestselling book that has a significant number of covers from which to draw inspiration and to reference and build on.

Also, the book’s important to both our collective book-loving memories but also to Penguin Modern Classic’s stable of profitable books. Those factors combined with the significance of the half-century anniversary would, you would think, warrant the publisher putting their best design minds on the job.

So what the hell happened?

In a case of it truly looks like the wrong file was sent to the printer world-is-fukt style, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been printed with a cover better suited to Lolita.

We’ve come to expect better—much, much, much better—from Penguin Modern Classics. In fact, when I first saw the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover design, I thought Facebook had done that annoying thing it is wont to do: display an image unrelated to the post unless you remember to go in and cycle through to select the one you actually want. Many other fans, it appears, thought it was a spoof.

LolitaOr worse, the designer and the managing editor (or whoever signed off on this disaster) hadn’t read the book. This is kind of inexcusable both because of its long-time-loved status—even if you hadn’t read it, you should know the gist of the tale—and because there were also a number of movies made about it too.

If you hadn’t read it, you could have cheated high school-style and watched a film. Failing that, wouldn’t you go for something literal, like a reference to chocolate or a chocolate factory as hinted at through the title?

And am I the only one to wonder why there’s a girl on the cover when the book’s protagonist is a boy?

Sure, there were a couple of girls in the book, but they were part of a cast of snotty-nosed children Charlie encounters and none of them are worth singling out on the cover. If they were going to reference the other children, they should have had an image that represented more than one of them.

BuzzFeed has collated the best internet’s responses so far, which makes for head-nodding- and guffaw-inducing reading.

Some of my favourites include:

  • You know how it always looks like a cover designer’s never read the book?
  • Just so we’re clear, that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover is one of the biggest publishing mistakes ever. Hitler’s Diaries bad.
  • Remember that really famous part of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the terrifying dolls? Nope. Me neither.
  • Jon Benet and the Chocolate Factory. Creepy. Not in a good way.
  • Publishing protip: If readers confuse a book cover for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Lolita, not a very good CHILDREN’s design.

With this new version to be released in just under a month, I suspect this isn’t the last we’ve heard about this horror design…

To Re-Read Or Not To Re-Read: That Is The Question

The Secret HistoryGiven ever-increasing work and study loads and ever-diminishing leisure time (not to mention the ever-increasing demands on that leisure time,) it’s getting harder and harder to carve out dedicated, uninterrupted reading time.

Stand that fact next to the bucket loads of books published annually around the world, and that there are bucket loads more that were published before I was born, and I’m realising that I’ll never be able to read all the books I want to in this lifetime. It’s with this in mind that I feel as though I’m cheating myself and as-yet un-read books each time I consider revisiting a book.

A friend once told me that books should be treated like ex-partners—it was fun while it lasted, but you can never go back. Things are never as good as the second time around, he said, and that short-lived comfort of returning to what you know is replaced by long-term dislike as previously unnoticed or unacknowledged flaws stampede you.

When I put this to some friends via those handy crowd-sourcing tools called text messages and Facebook, the response was varied. One friend was adamant that he’d never re-read a book, but the rest sat somewhere in the middle.

Two friends said they went back to books in preparation for future releases in a series: if you like, a re-read refresher. One (also named Fiona) said she re-read books if they were so good that she read them ‘too quickly’ the first time around, before acknowledging that her busy life meant that the books needed to be pretty special in order for her to do so.

Mardi said that ‘the really good ones are worth a second going over’, before adding: ‘Now I’m married, I only apply that rule to books!’ For other friends, like Amber, the quality of the book made the difference: ‘Lit fic ones where the prose is just gorgeous are long-term relationships. Mysteries or thrillers are one-night stands: once you know whodunit, it’s over.’

Others said that they will re-read books if a long, long time has passed, which arguably renders the book brand, spanking new. Such revisits help you ‘discover things you missed the first time around’, but can be, as Carody noted, a double-edged sword: ‘When I re-read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, it wasn’t as awesome as I remembered it being, which made me sad.’

The Catcher In The RyeShe has, she says, ‘been meaning to re-read The Catcher in the Rye for, oh, ten years’, but wonders whether she will still love Holden Caulfield, ‘Or will I now want to punch him in the face to stop his adolescent whining?’

I’m facing similar issues myself, having noticed that my copy of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History was missing from my shelf. No one owned up, much less returned it, and my brother is again under suspicion. I then noticed that The Secret History is now available for less that $10 as a Penguin Modern Classic, which meant I had to replace it. It’s now sitting on my shelf, orange spine uncracked.

I overwhelmingly want to re-read The Secret History, although in truth my memory of the book is fairly hazy—something about students at a college studying Latin, a murder, and a character called Bunny—and I’m terrified that Tartt’s masterpiece won’t stand up the second time around. I mean, I already suffered trying to read the book she produced through her second book syndrome: The Little Friend. I’m not sure what state I’d be in if her first book too was revealed to be a clunker.

The Little FriendMy friend Katy took the ex-partner analogy to a new (and potentially unpublishable in this family forum) level, saying that there are too many fish in the sea and that life is too short to go back. But she did make me think about experiencing books in a different format. She says she wouldn’t re-read Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, but she did listen to them as audio books after she finished the paperbacks. I guess it’s not dissimilar to seeing the book turned into a film and, as I’ve previously noted, I’m fairly ok with that.

So should I be a re-reader? Or should I cut all ties to a book, as with an ex, once it’s over? I’m honestly still undecided. Perhaps revisiting The Secret History will help me make up my mind…