Main Street by Sinclair Lewis: a study of covers

I’m not finished reading this book yet – I’m still splitting my time between Dethroning the King and Main Street. They’re both delightful! And a bit long, but mostly I’m just very busy right now. (School is ramping up for the end of the semester, and my big race is in a week and a half…) So, thanks for your patience. Anyway – I haven’t finished Main Street, and I haven’t written much about it here; I’m waiting to finish and write up all my thoughts at once. (I have lots of thoughts.) But in the meantime, I went looking for different covers.

There have been many editions of this book, and many different covers. I’ve got a collection of them here for you. This won’t mean much to you if you haven’t read the book yet, but I wonder about your thoughts. Some of these cover designs seem to emphasis the titular Main Street, and I guess that’s a nice picture, and plays into the title. But I feel that the real Questions (capital Q) of the book deal with the People who color the street, if you will. The cover of the edition I’m reading is the very last one pictured here, and I actually think I like it the best. (It’s a charming little paperback that requests to be sold for 75 cents!) It concentrates on the people, leaving Main Street out altogether, and the fact that the two people (overlapping, and presumably “together”) are turned away from each other, and each seeming to hail someone else, seems especially appropriate to me. The book indicates that the inhabitants of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota are overly concerned with the opinions of others. It all fits, to me.

With no further ado, lots of Main Street covers for you! Do you have any thoughts? Any favorites? Or have you not read this book and I’m boring you completely? (My full write-up will come eventually. I promise.)

my Signet Classic edition

6 Responses

  1. I have not read the book – but love covers and love the different ones… there are several I really like!

  2. Funny that you and I both hit the same topic on the same day. Covers are interesting, aren’t they? Sometimes we do judge a book by its cover; sometimes we buy a book by its cover. And these, I don’t know, I found it interesting to see the different interpretations. When a book is around for this long we get these opportunities!

  3. I love Sinclair Lewis and am glad you are reading Main Street. And l also love looking at various covers. I find it especially funny when the same painting or photo gets used for different books that are in no way similar.

    Although the Signet and Bantam editions have nice covers, the paintings do not evoke the Midwest. I grew up in Minnesota and have been to Lewis’ hometown of Sauk Centre and I can guarantee you there are no mountains in the background like the ones in the Signet edition. And the building placement in the Bantam is more in line with New England. In the Midwest you pretty much never see those kinds of angles because everything was rigidly laid out at right angles according to the township and range system.

    The Penguin cover I like a lot. It uses an image by the painter Grant Wood (of the very famous American Gothic) who did a series of illustrations for a limited edition of Main Street, a copy of which I am happy to say I own.

  4. Thank you Thomas for the more in-depth explanation! Your illustrated edition (Grant Wood, no less) sounds splendid. I would love to see one someday.

    I’m enjoying this book very much, and regret letting it live untouched on my shelf so long. I think I was intimidated, but I’m not sure why; he had me literally laughing out loud on page 1. What a treasure. There are SO MANY great books in this world, it’s both exhilarating and terrifyingly overwhelming.

  5. Interesting how the covers make them seem like different books. I prefer the ones with a street. The people just make me think…where ist he street?

    I haven’t read the book yet, will be interested in hearing your thoughts!

  6. Thanks! My thoughts will be up sometime this week! 🙂

    Since you mention the absence of the street… it’s interesting to consider who’s really the main character here. Like I said, I like the one with the people on it because the book is ultimately about people; but Main Street is almost a character in itself, so it is rather appropriate for it to be in the title, and on the cover.

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