Many Rioters will agree with me that The Classics – Shakespeare, Austen, Morrison, et al. – are perfect on their own and need no gimmick to sell them. Who wouldn’t want to read about a house haunted by the ghost of a baby (Beloved) or a fast-paced tale of friendship, magic, and defying death (The Epic of Gilgamesh)? However, centuries of heavy handed scholarship and pedantry combined with a fundamental misunderstanding of the classics have driven many readers from them. And, when the language of The Tale of Genji, Madame Bovary, and Frankenstein is alien to readers, they’re even less likely to give these great stories a try.
This is where gimmicks come in. Specifically, Pulp! The Classics, published by Oldcastle Books. These delightfully designed books pair pulp fiction-ish covers, simplified but accurate summaries, and humor with the original text to make classical works like Pride and Prejudice, Dubliners, and Three Men in a Boat more attractive to readers. In fact, you might say they make the perfect back-to-school choice. Here’s why.
Their modern design makes them visually attractive. Bold primary or secondary colors rule the day on every cover, drawing the eye, as do depictions of Frankenstein’s Creature clad in leather on a motorcycle. Readers will naturally gravitate towards these covers.
They excite the reader by their obvious depictions of drama or romance. Many new classical readers are often unaware of how exciting the classics can be. Teachers and parents usually don’t like to emphasize the horror, murder, and sex in books, but these covers get right to the point.
They help translate the story into modern understanding – without changing the original text. The covers do a great job of showing the larger-than-life personalities within the texts, whether by casting Othello as Mr. T (and deftly hinting at the racial/cultural tension within the play), equating The Metamorphosis (Pulp! The Classics) with The Fly, or dressing up Tess as the equally misunderstood Marilyn Monroe.
They encourage cross-genre exploration. Chances are, if you buy someone one of these editions, they’re going to become curious about what pulp fiction even is. This could lead them to exploring the older movies that the covers echo or (better yet) read some pulp fiction like A Princess of Mars, Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, or Sign of the Labrys.
They’ll instantly up your cool factor. Going back to school often means being alone and needing to make new friends. You bust out your Pulp! The Classics edition of A Christmas Carol during lit class and you’re pretty much guaranteed to have friends by lunch.
So if you need to buy one of these books for a class, why not try Pulp! The Classics? The text is the exact same, but you’ll break the mold, generate a few laughs, and add a really cool-looking book to your shelves.
* This article was not sponsored. I just think Pulp! The Classics are super funny, and I laughed for like five minutes the first time I saw them. It’s been a year, and I still laugh at them.