I read a book!

Lots of thoughts still coalescing after actually reading a book, Brad Gooch’s Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor. But the most visceral is this: if’n I were an artistic-type person, I’d write me a short story around this sentence regarding her story collection A Good Man is Hard to Find (a collection which included the devastating “Good Country People”):

“Its inevitable fate was the thirty-five-cent paperback, published by Signet the next year in a run of 173,750 copies, with a lurid cover of Hulga, in an open blouse and red skirt, her leg and foot bare, struggling in a hayloft with a dark stranger.”

Google Images gives me nothing, but wow this is great material. The story, naturally, is about the painter, a guy who routinely has to tart up works of literary fiction to make ’em look sexy for the masses. And then he gets handed this weird story collection, and starts perusing, looking for his subject…

Might just have to write this one.


  1. I couldn’t put that book down…came close to calling in ‘sick’ just to spend extra time with Flannery.

    To digress about lurid covers….my children are quite impressed with the vintage copy of Mauriac’s Desert of Love that I sent for while reading Flannery. A lurid cover worthy of framing!

  2. Santiago says

    Do it!

    “Houellebecq opens his laptop and shows us the cover for his new book, The Possibility of an Island. It’s a photo of a sultry woman submerged in water. The book critic pooh-poohs it, says the image is beneath the dignity and importance of his work, but Houellebecq stares rapturously at the cover model.”


  3. Matthew,

    Yes! Excellent! Please. Do. Work. Provide. Provide.

    Yeeeessssss…..Get to work, matey!


    Might I suggest that it should be Menippean and tinctured with magical realism (a subset, at any rate, of the Menippean).

    Think myth of Pygmalion and Galatea meets Pulp Fiction….

    Break that frame!

    Just some thoughts…


  4. cubeland mystic says


    I am quite comfortable in the Menippean space. Here is an icon of me inhabiting that space. I can help Matthew here if he wants it.



    In honor of your great artistic labor, I will offer a great spiritual labor. This summer I will make a sacrificial pilgrimage to Maui, and offer it for the success of your work. There I will do penance and mortify the flesh in hopes that one day we will return together in a great pilgrimage of thanksgiving.

    Here is an icon of me on last summer’s pilgrimage to Oahu. I still have the scars from the coral. I prayed for your fruitfulness then as the surf drilled me into the reef. This year I will be more specific. Mahalo.


  5. Matthew Lickona says

    SO much wonderful luridity… thanks all, and especially to Cubeland for suffering those demons gladly…

  6. Rufus McCain says

    I used to own an early paperback copy of The Last Gentleman, with a lurid cover image of a naked woman–not a painting but a sort of double exposure photograph. An odd thing.

  7. I briefly owned a Love in the Ruins with a Harlequinesque cover – the beefy, chisel-faced Dr. More with forearms tensing as he grips the carbine, the three women with alluring, come-hither looks behind him (this is from memory, so it’s a bit sketchy), etc.

    I have to admit, there’s almost something refreshing about it – back when publishers considered it all lowbrow – I think they assumed a reading public, and not just a reading market – or a reading market with vairous niches to attract. (Another index of this same phenomenon – the Readers Digest Condensed – lowbrow, highbrow, didn’t matter, it all got the RDCB “treatment” – take out the racy, the provocative, but add really, really cool full-color illustrations.)

    Could it be that the publishers pushed the lowest common denominator on the outside because everyone read? After all, you didn’t want to scare anyone away with brainy-looking covers…

    Everyone was comfortable with the ioconography of the pulpy covers in the fifties and the upscale pulpy covers of the sixties and seventies… (it seemed that the best way to upscale was to treat Boris Vallejo as the new idiom for pulp…) So put it all in the same tank and let the customer choose his own fish for dinner…

    I don’t know if this is the case – but I do know that reading ain’t what it used to be with Joe Q. Public…. The specialists have moved in and the reader no longer cares to serve as a critic in his own right.


  8. Johnny Vino says

    When I read this I went bloodhound through my wife’s grad school books to find this choice cover of covers. Enjoy!


    I don’t think any vixens are spanked in these stories. I also doubt there’s any serf bodice-ripping like in the bottom pic. But I’m pretty sure every story has a woman passed out drunk.

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