Everyone loves vintage book covers, right? Well not Random House publishing, which announced plans for a digital comeback for Norman Mailer, the hugely-talented and quixotic author. 13 of Norman Mailer's works are getting new updated covers, so we thought we'd pit them side by side in a battle for book cover supremacy.
The biggest difference is that each of the new covers mentions Mailer as "the two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize" and has a nice, clean-looking border around the edges. Now let's get to the fight. Can't you just smell those old book fumes wafting through your nose?
(The year listed is that of the specific cover edition, and not the book's original date of publication.)
Barbary Shore (1953)
Winner: Old. A sexy seductress, classy-looking man, and pulp-like cover beat a dimly-colored bridge, even the Brooklyn Bridge, every time.
An American Dream (1965)
Winner: Old. I don't know why there's a tiny woman's headshot in the old version but it's intriguing. Now I want to buy this book.
The Deer Park (1967)
Winner: New. Much cleaner, more modern look for this new one.
Ancient Evenings (1983)
Winner: Old. The Egyptian-style font of the older version really puts it over the top.
Tough Guys Don't Dance (1984)
Winner: New. The old version looks kind of like an ad for an insurance company. Tough guys don't dance; but they invest in their futures?
The Fight (1991)
Winner: Tie. Muhammad Ali is still really cool.
Harlot's Ghost: A Novel (1992)
Winner: New. Trees are the most creepy plant life.
Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery (1995)
Winner: Old. The inverted black-and-white is way more dramatic. Color is for dweebs.
The Gospel According to the Son (1998)
Winner: Old. A spiky nail on the cover of a book about Jesus? Seems a little morbid, no?
The Spooky Art (2003)
Winner: Old. Mailer made for a lovely old man.
Why Are We at War? (2003)
Winner: Old. This cover is the most drastically changed, and it's one of the few where some of the meaning of the original is lost. The old's dramatic red and black colors and all-caps shows a biting tone — Why the hell are we at war?, it seems to ask. The newer one, with its American flag and tanks in the background, appears to be more of a sincere question. Well, why are we at war, actually? The book's content is much closer to the former. This is one clear instance of the older cover being much more accurate to the book's tone.
The Castle in the Forest (2007)
Winner: Old. Why get rid of the "New York Times bestseller" note? Don't authors just kill for that?
On God: An Uncommon Conversation (2008)
Winner: New. The old version is a little too bland. Go with the lighted clouds.
Our final tally: Four wins for the new covers, eight for the old, and one tie. That's a slight win for the editions of old, although 33 percent isn't that bad. And on the plus side, now we all know that Norman Mailer was definitely most sincerely a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
(All old cover images via Amazon, except The Fight via Google Books)
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.