In 2009, before my memoir TheMercy Papers came out, my publishing house showed me ten veryquestionable book covers. Even my editor thought them cringeworthy, and sentthem to me with weary trepidation. One featured Adirondack chairs in softcolors, overlooking the endless sea. Another, a naked woman's back, herslightly damp curls suggesting an earlier lovemaking session. My memoir, afurious and raw account of my mother's death, was far from placid or erotic.Yes, one scene takes place looking out at an ocean. And the naked woman seemedto be standing next to some hospital sheets...which were sort of deathy. But I feared these coverswould sentence my book to a place on the remainders table.
Ihad the good fortune of pitching a fit the week that the wonderful designer RexBonomelli joined Scribner. He read the book, and an unexpected image jumped outat him: the popsicle.
Thepopsicle was one of the last foods my mother could eat. By the end of her life,and by the end of the book, she couldn't hold them. Her hands shook, so theywould fall to the floor and break. The three red popsicles, going from whole tobroken against a dreamy blue backdrop, signify the breaking down of childhoodas well as decline from illness and, ultimately, death.
Instantlysuccessful, the cover piqued the interest of booksellers and blogs. It's thesort of book jacket people reach out to touch. Not only is it beautiful, itboth clashes with and magnifies what it's meant to suggest, the way any goodmetaphor should.
Itwas surprising, then, when a similar image popped up in Esquire 's female sex survey in 2010 . On a backdrop in a very similar shade of blue asmy book cover lay four popsicles in various states of wholeness. On Mercy Papers , it had been an image of emotional and physical diminishment; here, it was a graph showing howmuch women liked to give blowjobs.
Itook it as a kind of backward compliment that a magazine like Esquire might be alluding to my book. Atleast that would mean they were paying attention. Moms! You mean MILFs? Awesome, give 'em a"popsicle!"
I guess popsicles are kind ofphallic.
Now, a picture that looks strikingly like my book's jacket is serving as the campaign image for J.Crew's summer sale. True, they used only one popsicle, notthree, but it disappears in a series of animated clips. The color scheme andprecise huescherry red, light blue backdrop with some shadow, white font areexactly the same. The disappearing red popsicle now lures you to buy not aheartbreaking book about my mother's untimely death, but tiny, light blue chinoshorts.
Oneof my writer friends suggested that J.Crew could put The Mercy Papers near the register instores here .I happen to think that my fierce and excellent mother would make a wonderfulcompanion as you sunbathe on your sailboat in Nantucket, sipping gin, strawbucket bag by your side, overpriced flip-flops dangling from your feet.perhaps with some cute polka-dot Kleenexes (to catch the tears!). Until that happens, J. Crew shoppers can find the book
Screengrab of oral sex chart from Esquire.com