As part of the buildup for this year's Tournament of Books, C. Max Magee at The Millions does something I've been meaning to do for a long time: compare U.S. and U.K. covers for some of last year's big fiction. I wanted to especially because of the strikingly different covers out there for two of our favorites, Let the Great World Spin and Wolf Hall, and Magee indeed looks at both of those, along with a handful of other ToB contenders.
I agree that the U.S. McCann cover (on the left) is just splendid and the U.K. one in the middle, with its emphasis on a freakish acrobat instead of the city, totally misses the point (the second U.K. edition, on the right, is an improvement). One great side note about the U.S. cover is that the illustration is by Matteo Pericoli, whose own books, Manhattan Unfurled and The City Out My Window, are wonderful companions to Let the Great World Spin in their immigrant's embrace of NYC.
I like the U.S. version of Wolf Hall better than he does, but what I love is the variety of covers from the U.S., U.K., and Canada that are both strongly individual and somehow connected (ok, mainly in that they are all red). Below are the U.S. hardcover, U.K. hardcover, U.K. paperback, and Canadian paperback. What do you think, especially about that Canadian one? I can't decide, but I think I might love it: so brutal and of its period. But it does make me fear the book more than want to read it.
But what I really love about Wolf Hall? The title. Geez, I can't quite pin it down (perhaps it's the presence of something wild in a domestic space), but as soon as I heard it I desperately wanted to read the book, and I still love just saying it: "Wolf Hall, Wolf Hall, Wolf Hall..." Sounds like a story. --Tom
P.S. I missed it at the time, but Magee did a similar roundup before last year's ToB. My favorite comparison: the U.S. hardcover and U.K. paperback editions of Netherland, which I think are both fabulous but diametrically opposite: the U.S.'s semi-ironic pastoral vs. the U.K.'s smoggy grit. (Each probably appropriate for their audience's perspective on NYC.) What drives me crazy is the U.S. paperback (lower right), which has totally dropped the hardcover's lovely delicacy for a generic treatment that loses the whole flavor of the book.