Sunday, September 05, 2004

KING COVERS: Carrie (1974)

Carrie, Stephen King's first novel, is probably most famous for almost never seeing the light of day. After tossing the manuscript in the trash after the first few pages, King's wife fished it out and forced him to finish what he had intended to abort. Unable to stretch the story into a novel, he littered the book with fake interviews, fake book excerpts, and fake newspaper clippings -- a technique I'm personally quite fond of, and one King would use again and again in the years to come.

This is the original, hardcover, U.S. Doubleday version of Carrie, and it's not a bad cover by any stretch of the imagination. Both the title and the face on the cover imply that it's a book about a girl -- which is true -- but there's something kind of off-ish and unsettling about the way the girl is half hidden, as if she herself is afraid to come out, also capturing a vital theme of the story. All in all, it's a nicely understated cover for a first time author, letting the image speak by hardly speaking at all. So to speak.

The hardcover was followed, of course, by the paperback, published by Signet. The version on the left was the original design, sporting a fairly vital mis-print: No author name, and no book title. Just a weird looking face. The version on the right corrects the misprint. And for years (barring the occasional, inevitable, movie-tie-in edition) was the version of Carrie sitting in book stores and book shelves across the country.

Note: I actually have a couple of copies of the misprinted paperback. It's one of my favourite used book store finds, and easy to spot either face on (for the obvious reasons) or when looking at the spine ("Carrie" printed in silver instead of the white that would be used in later editions)

Enough trivia and blathering -- this cover, in spite of it's historical longevity, does almost nothing for me. I think they're trying to maintain some of the mystery from the hardcover design with the half obscured face, but what's with the completely separate face popping out of the side of her head? Makes the book look like it tells the story of a conjoined twin, and not a shy, tragic teen struggling with both puberty and telekinesis at the same time.

Later U.S. paperbacks would sport this cover, again going with the "girl's face half obscured" theme which had been so popular in earlier version. The entirely red cover fits nicely with the book's contents -- blood (menstrual, pigs' blood) and rage. To be frank, this design would be at the very top of my list if it weren't for one small detail -- adding the book's title seemed to be an afterthought. King's name is HUGE (a sure sign it was from later in his career, when publisher's realized that's all they needed to sell a book) but the title is stuffed at the bottom of the page, in a tiny, skinny, barely readable font.

Nice design, poor use of type. Which means...

This design takes the top prize. Good use of type (book's name is actually a significant size) and good use of a simple, understated image which still gets its point across (love the tiny little tear). Again, the use of red as the only colour (other than white, which I count as the absence of colour, from a stricly print-based perspective) meshes with the blood / rage themes in the book.

The only problem is...I'm not sure if this is a legitimate version of the book or not. I don't recall ever seeing this on a shelf, and filename (carrie_music.gif) implies that it might, in fact, be somehow connected to the miserable failure that was "Carrie: The Musical".

And now a couple of entries from abroad:

On the left, a Spanish version of Carrie. Once again, the design is simple and understated, though maybe a little too-much-so for my tastes. The type gets a little carried away, helping to obscure what might otherwise be an interesting image.

On the right, a Japanese version of Carrie which is...odd. And, somehow, wholely Japanese.

All covers are stolen without permission from the Stephen King Cover Gallery. Here's hoping that if I'm nice and give him a link, he won't ask me to take these down.

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