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First, thanks again for all the good wishes I received from community members during my recent health issues.  I'm very pleased to report that aside from some lingering fatigue, I'm doing just fine.  I'm eating well, the Steri-Strips are off my incisions, and I'm back at work, albeit taking it easy and going in a bit later than normal to get some badly needed extra sleep.

Given that I was starting to turn yellow from jaundice when I went into the hospital a little over two weeks ago, I'm astonished at how well I'm recovering.

I'm also strongly considering filing a complaint (or possibly more) against the first hospital that I went to, the one that initially diagnosed me with a kidney infection and a back spasm, then sent me home with a prescription for an antibiotic that can cause jaundice.  I'm not sure if this was an honest mistake or not, but I can't help wondering if the reason I ended up having to spend an extra day and a half in the second hospital's ER while my labs returned to the normal range was because the first hospital didn't even consider the possibility that I was having a gallstone attack.  Not fun, and if filing a complaint can prevent this from happening to anyone else, I will.

So...that aside, life goes on.  That means a diary to brighten your Saturday night, and if it isn't the one promised in my schedule a while back, I hope it will suffice.  

And now....



Beata and I once set out to be art world stars.

On paper this was not necessarily a terrible idea.  Beata has a degree in Fine Arts from our beloved alma mater, Smith, while I've managed to cobble together enough knowledge of art history and theory to hold my own in academia.  She can draw, I can write, and we're both articulate, educated, and fully capable of talking our way out of various interesting situations.

The fact that neither of us is much into contemporary art is something of a problem, but as they say, "With enough caffeine, all things are possible"…or was that faith?  Cats?  Possibly chocolate?

Regardless, we latched onto this idea after a visit to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, about an hour south, with our friend Pam.  We had a blast in the costume exhibit, then wandered into the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century painting galleries for more fun.  I accidentally tripped a silent alarm trying to study the seams on a Charles James evening gown (the alert young guard, who looked young enough to be my son, was taken aback by the sight of three middle aged women blinking politely in his direction), we made a concerted effort to find more artifacts from the lost collections of Chateau de Pouffe, and all in all, it was a most successful day.

And then we walked into the contemporary galleries, and that's when our innocent little daytrip irrevocably jumped the rails, the shark, and possibly even the broom.

You see, there was a very special installation at the Atheneum that day.  A feminist artist had obtained a grant that would allow her decorate one of the galleries with her signature work.  This was a commentary on societal standards of beauty and how they force women into conformity whether they like it or not.  The artist employed a common beauty product and her own body to produce what the brochure claimed was a powerful indictment of the unrealistic standards and expectations that women are subjected to almost from the moment of birth.

All this is a very worthy goal.  So why did we peer into the gallery, stare for a few seconds in mute astonishment, and then start giggling?  Why did we crack jokes about this project for the rest of the day?  Why did this lead to us deciding that if this artist could get a grant, we could, too, as long as we could come up with a suitably impressive philosophical manifesto?  

You'll understand why when I tell you that this glittering piece of feminist art consisted not of painting…

Nor sculpture…

Nor collage…

Nor etchings nor lithographs nor even videos…

But of random patterns drawn all over a hardware floor, produced by the artist soaking her waist-length hair in a bucket of Clairol Nice 'n Easy Natural Black, then crawling about on her hands and knees swirling her dripping locks all over the quarter-sawn oak that the patrons of the Atheneum had paid for over a century before.

No.  I am not making this up.

To say that we were less than impressed is only to state the obvious; feminism is in my bones and has been since childhood, but not only did this not seem like much in the way of art, it didn't seem all that feminist since it looked a lot more like ink smears than anything else, and who wants those?  Pam, who didn't know much about art, was frankly bewildered, even after Beata and I tried to explain what we had just seen.  

Soon we were cracking jokes, and by the time we were back in the car and headed north, the three of us were not only laughing ourselves sick, Beata and I had decided on our cunning plan.  Her cat, Chipster, had the unusual ability to produce perfectly round clumps of liquid whenever he used the litterbox, so we would take these, encase them in Lucite, mount them somehow, and then attempt to get the resulting artwork into a local gallery.  We would of course dress entirely in black, I would wear too much lipstick as a commentary on beauty standards and dark glasses to lessen the chance that I'd crack up in the middle of our pitch, and Beata would give a spiel about man's inhumanity to man, or feminism, or animal rights, or something.  

Fortunately we never tried it, or we might well have been laughed out of Northampton for good.

Tonight I bring not art, nor books, nor books about art, nor even art about books.  No, tonight it's yet another in my very irregular series of looks at Cover Arts So Bad It's Good.  The ten selections below were created not as part of a feminist manifesto, but as a way to sell entire eager readers into picking up a copy of the book adorn, plunking down their hard-earned cash/credit/debit/chickens/barter/whatever, and thus keeping the great American machine called "capitalism" going.  That the covers utterly fail at anything but making the prospective reader laugh, shrug, or possibly break into a spontaneous fit of St. Vitus's Dance only makes them more suitable for these diaries, as you'll shortly see:

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley - this classic broke ground in so many ways: the first book about what we'd now call an android, the first science fiction novel by a woman (or anyone), the first serious look at technology outstripping society's ability to legislate or control it.  It is a classic on so many levels, and all the more remarkable because Mary Shelley was only nineteen when she agreed to a bet with her far more famous husband, her husband's even more famous friend, and the friend's extremely jealous doctor.   Frankenstein is many things, and has provoked a constant stream of questions, critiques, and commentaries…but one thing all are agreed on is that is not, in any way, shape, or form, a heroic fantasy.

Which is why this cover, showing what appears to be a Noldorin Elf on his way to Thangorodrim, is so bewildering.  Did the art director of this reprint house not read the book?  Was s/he completely out of cover art?  Were bribes involved?  Sexual favors?  A strange plot by literary illuminati to cash in on the success of The Lord of the Rings?  Will we ever know?  Should we?


The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy -someone already pointed this inexplicable cover out to me in the comments of a previous diary, but if ever a cover deserved another shout-out, it's this one.  Think about it:  not only is The Scarlet Pimpernel set in the late 18th century...not only are the only animals in it a couple of horses...not only is it an adventure novel...there is not one single cat of any type, from tiny soft squeakie to majestic, menacing panther, in the entire book.  Maybe the art director thought that since cats sell, and chick lit sells, and books set at offices sell, none of the above mattered?  

Or maybe this is simply yet another of Sir Percy Blakeney's brilliant disguises?  I mean, even Citoyen Chauvelin would love a sweet little kitten, wouldn't he?

The Princess Bride, by William Goldman - the comic masterpiece about Buttercup, Westley, Fezzik, and of course Inigo Montoya is transformed through the magic of terrible art into an Arabian Nights fantasy, complete with scantily clad harem girl, swirly, fussy lines, and a typeface better suited to a hot 'n spicy “he raped me because he lurved me” 1970s romance novel.  The blank white background adds a little extra fillip of “huh????” to the entire arrangement.

The Great Hunt, by Robert Jordan - Robert Jordan's immense series of doorstops cleverly disguised as interminable fantasy novels were illustrated almost until the end by anatomy-challenged artist Darrell Sweet.  This tasty example of Sweet's colorful, horribly proportioned, utterly charmless covert art isn't quite as terrible as the cover for The Great Hunt, where one of the protagonists goes a-questing sidesaddle on a hobbit-sized pony, but this ain't much better.  Besides, there's bonus Quasimodo!  What's not to like?

The Riddle-Master of Hed, by Patricia McKillip - Darrell Sweet does it again, this time with botched perspective, his trademark crappy anatomy, bright purple boots with dagging, and what appears to be the bastard offspring of Gandalf and a dementor looming menacingly out of the dust.  Why this man continued to get work illustrating well-known authors like McKillip and Jordan is one of those unanswered questions of science fiction fandom, especially since his heyday was about the same time that Michael Whelan's gorgeous, exquisitely drawn paintings were setting a new standard for fantasy and science fiction art.

The Long Journey of Mr. Poop, by Angela Delanoise and Marie Lafrance - – this jaunty little cover showing Mr. Hanky's cousin from gay Paris makes it clear that even the least savory, most unsanitary aspects of French culture are superior to their American counterparts.  I mean, our turds don't get so much as a baseball cap advertising The Lone Ranger or Showgirls, let alone a stylish little beret.  There oughta be a law!

Old Tractors and the Men Who Love Them, by Roger Welsch - This touching story of an elderly, fashion-challenged man and the true love of this life was the first offering in the “Ma Kettle Presents” line of wholesome, farm-oriented romance novels.  That it never found its audience is a crying shame, especially since the next volume in the series, “Love Among the Chicken Coops,” was later published to great acclaim and was the basis for the award-winning movie that made such a splash at the Chicoutimi International Film Festival a few years ago.

Invisible Dick, by Francis Topham - Dick may be invisible, but his bike, cap, and dog sure aren't!  Fun for everyone, especially when the villain, Michael Rotch, douses him with a counteragent and we learn just why everything but Dick's hat disappeared in the first place.  No wonder Trojan Press is planning a revised and updated edition, to be included free in every package of its best-selling “Visible Dick” line of home health aids!

Birth Control is Sinful in Christian  Marriages and also Robbing God of Priesthood Children, by Miss Elyzabeth Yanne Strong-Anderson - Miss Elyzabeth Yanne Strong- Anderson –  Just a hunch, but I have this strange feeling that birth control is not the reason the womb of Miss Elyzabeth Yanne Strong-Anderson has yet to produce a priesthood child for God.....

Bomb-Proof Your Horse, by Sgt. Rick Pelicano - You mean wrapping Dobbin in Kevlar, a hazmat suit, and body armor isn't enough?  What next, portable Jersey barriers?  A force field?  A security cordon?  HOW FAR ARE WE WILLING TO GO TO KEEP MY LITTLE PONY SAFE FROM THE TERRORISTS??????


And so my friends...what terrible cover have you seen lately?  What lurks in your closet?  Your knotty pine rumpus room?  Your parents' knotty pine rumpus room?  It's Saturday and you know what that means.....


Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule

DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
MON 11:30 AM Political Book Club Susan from 29
Mon 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery Susan from 29, michelewln
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM All Things Bookstore Dave in Northridge
Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 2:00 PM e-books Susan from 29
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
Thu (third each month - on hiatus) 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
Fri 6:00 PM Books Go Boom! Brecht
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Sat Jul 13, 2013 at 06:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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