I'm watching the Gary Cooper/Helen Hayes version of Farewell to Arms. Even though, when I had read the novel, I knew it wasn't modern dress, the movie brings to focus the times. I think how often, the writer and reader work together with the imagination. The reader fills in gaps, and sees the scene in his own way.
As I have been reviewing the cover for my novel, the image catches the eye, but should not tell the whole story. I had read before about choosing the cover, to not really show the main character's face, the reader wants to fill that in themselves. Some of the most pleasing books, though, for me, were the old ones on the glass door bookshelves at home, with just the gold print on a black, brown or green cover, with the intriguing title and no write up. Words on the page the only marketing to a young reader.
Covers, though, do invite. I think of the paperback I bought in Hamilton's Drugstore when I was in sixth grade. The picture of hippies holding hands stared at me by the window, full faces, flowing hair, I had to buy it. I can't remember the whole plot, yet some of the images remain of the commune, the old hearse they drove, his hand on her belly while they slept. Actually, I can't remember the plot at all. I'm sure the book is long gone in an incinerated dump.
Covers have an importance, now, that before was not as necessary. A black cover with stern gold set would not attract notice on Amazon.com. Or maybe it would. Maybe a purplish blue one with only a summer triangle of stars.