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While pulling a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby for a customer at work yesterday, my coworker Mersija and I noticed something oddly familiar about the book cover.

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The cover for Rules of Civility is striking in its combination of elaborate font, solid colour second cover for highlight, and sharpened contrast. What a difference a punch of turquoise makes! The Gatsby cover is comparatively understated, as many of the Modern Classics books are: muted sepia tone image, white block text, and the author’s name larger than life.

Last October, the University of Toronto Bookstore did an event with the Toronto Public Library at their Yorkville branch to promote Amor Towles Rules of Civility and the TPL’s New Collection, an under-40 club for literary philanthropists. Towles was a charismatic speaker who shared lively anecdotes (with some art history thrown in for good measure), and I soon read and loved the book. Given that Civility is tagged as Towles’ love song for New York City and compared to Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in every review I’ve seen, it’s surprising to see that Penguin would  recycle the cover image from the Modern Classics edition of Gatsby. I had previously thought that repurposing stock imagery was reserved mainly for YA novels, but I guess the old adage rings true: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Was this an oversight, or deliberate subliminal marketing to place Towles’ book favourably in reviews?

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