Thursday, September 27, 2007

On the Road, Again (and Again, and Again...)

I finally got around to reading On the Road just in time for the book's 50th anniversary. The book didn't really do much for me (I'm either too old, too dull, or too averse to travelling to get into it), but I was struck by this original (and unused) book cover, drawn by Kerouac himself. I thought it was interesting that the way Kerouac set the title on a diagonal, as though moving into the distance, anticipated a design element that would appear in several later editions.

While I was tracking down those images, though, I came across this sizable collection of On the Road front covers from around the world. Some are pulpy (this one from Britain, or this one from Germany), others are artistic (such as this Italian cover or this British one), and others look like they should be the cover of an S.E. Hinton book. Editions in the Netherlands seem to be big on upside-down American flag imagery.

Beyond that, things get kind of weird. This Dutch cover has a nice photo, but the font, placement, and color of the title are all too ultra-modern and sleek in ways that the book is not. A Ukrainian cover flirts with satire, while this one from Croatia seems to have borrowed an image from the cover of Revolver. And the less said about this Chinese cover, the better; is this how the world's most populous nation envisions America?

One thing that didn't surprise me is that the vast majority of covers (except those with only text or an author photo) has some sort of car-related images. Interestingly, I only saw one reference to music in the whole set of covers, and bebop is certainly more central to the novel than any mode of transportation. It almost seems like Kerouac and car culture just got wrapped up in some post-war American mythology which may never get untangled in my lifetime.

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