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Lolita’s Cover Reimagined

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Lolita, at its core, is about the sexual abuse of a child. That’s why, for me, it was such a difficult book to read.

Complicating matters is the novel’s cover, which usually has some type of suggestive image of a young girl. Not exactly material you want to carry around in public.

And the covers also seemed to miss the mark on the book’s theme–which was more about a creepy old pervert than a suggestive young girl. Many recent covers of the novels seemed to take their inspiration more from Stanley Kubrick’s outlandish film, rather than Nabokov’s book.

So recently, I stumbled across this as-yet-unreleased book called Recovering Lolita, which gave 60 world-class designers the opportunity to redesign the cover of this classic novel. And let’s be honest: This book’s cover desperately needs new eyes and a fresh look.

The covers these designers came up with are fascinating–much more subtle and appropriate to the novel than the actual covers. Some incredible creativity here, I think, though I’m just a writer and not a designer by any means.

I thought I’d share some of these covers with you below. You can go to Imprint Magazine to read their interview with the creator of the competition, John Bertram, as well as take a look at some of the other cover designs.

This one gets the point across, but it’s a touch…cheesy maybe? I also think detective novel when I see the shadow of the guy in hat, presumably Humbert Humbert.

This one hits one of the main themes of the novel, including Humbert’s pronunciation of his nickname for Delores in the novel’s opening line. Less creepy.

I actually like this one best. I think it represents Humbert’s psychotic obsession with the girl through the journal-like off-centered scribblings of her name on paper.

Uncomfortable cover, if you know the theme of the book, but not overtly sexual. I think this one says a lot without saying much.

Again, you can go over to Imprint to see even more redesigned covers.

Do you think these covers represent the novel any better than the actual published versions?

(Images: Imprint Mag)

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. I agree with your choice, Robert. No matter what the content of a novel, it is not the place of a cover to judge it, and I think the pink one is the most neutral of the four you have shown. One can indeed judge a book by its cover, though this can often be misleading, and a cover should merely create interest in a book, not provide a judgment. A reader must approach a book with an open mind, not with a prejudice created by a cover. It’s a rather thin line to walk.


    April 11, 2012
    • Agreed. I’m just glad I’m not a designer that has to walk that line!


      April 11, 2012
  2. I’m really quite fond of the blue cover.


    April 11, 2012
    • I am as well. Humbert Humbert is the original unreliable narrator, seeing his own image and desires projected on a young girl, much like the reflection of his darkness in that shiny patent shoe. The book IS creepy and the cover is creepy in appropriately analogous way…and I like the composition.


      April 11, 2012
  3. Reblogged this on jessicawritesnow and commented:
    I think this is a very interesting endevour. The copy I own, a girl stands with her head looking at her shoes with little girl socks, yet in an older girl’s body. I think (off the top of my head) a bicycle is to the left of her. I favor the same one as the 101 books blogger does, because it’s pink (unfortuately the decidedly young girl’s stock color and the blacking out of text suggest creepy dude’s madness as well as a blindfold to indicate Lolita’s lost innocence through a violent sexual act repeated by dude’s perspective that accrues shame and overwhelming confusion upon roles.


    April 11, 2012
  4. I agreed with yr choice of the pink cover. Captures the psychotic nature of the guy & his obsession.
    Really enjoyed yr mix of images in your post & a great project to have been done. Thank goodness they are getting rid of the gross ‘sexy’ girl image. Will definitely check out Imprint


    April 11, 2012
  5. Really glad to see this effort. Lolita covers have been a pet-peeve of mine. So unfair. The bobby sox and the the blue cover both say it very well.


    April 11, 2012
    • I agree. Portrayed her so inaccurately.


      April 11, 2012
  6. This is one book I have never read because as you say its disturbing premise. I pick it up often enough and then put it back on the shelf. And maybe the covers contributed to it as well. I like the new ones especially the lo-lee-ta.. it is so creepy but the one with the socks is just brilliant.


    April 11, 2012
  7. I agree with the last comment. I’ve often set out to read it but then changed my mind. I like the pink cover best.


    April 12, 2012
  8. I like the bobby socks best. But I have to say that the one with the bug on the skin (on the website) is insanely good too. It gives you heebie jeebies.
    Ok and as much as I understand Lo didn’t start off that way, she does quickly pick up on how to use seduction and sex to get her way. But you’re right, the covers that depict her as sexy are unfair to her character and are too typical of that disgusting view: She was asking for it.


    April 16, 2012
  9. Even though judging books by their covers is famously a bad idea, it’s an interesting art, trying to get across a few of the key themes without spoiling anything.

    I’m a week late so anyone interested may have moved on, but on a similar theme, I found this interesting, a TED talk from the designer of Jurassic Park’s book cover, amongst others:


    April 18, 2012
  10. Reblogged this on bookgirl1987thoughts.


    April 24, 2012

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