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Double Trouble: Two Newish Novels Sport Eerily Similar Covers

Here’s a situation that harkens back to flipping through children’s magazines in my pediatrician’s office waiting room: What’s the difference between these two pictures?

Lucinda Rosenfeld’s “I’m So Happy For You” (Back Bay Books, July 2009) and Laurie Graff’s “The Shiksa Syndrome” (Broadway Books, October, 2008) may have hit shelves more than a year apart, but the novels sport practically identical covers: The posteriors of youngish women with longish fingers crossed behind their backs suggesting inner cores of mischief and chicanery. Both cover girls are dressed in fiery colors (reds and oranges) and are standing in front of cooling robin egg blue backgrounds.

“Sometimes it just sort of happens,” said Caroline Sill, Laurie Graff’s publicist at Random House.

Though the jackets were designed by different teams, they both boldly scream chick lit, despite what’s inside. Sill agrees that the books are quite different in nature, and says Graff was also comforted by that fact.

Rosenfeld’s publicist at Little Brown, Sabrina Callahan, said that the twin covers are likely a coincidence, and offered that women’s fiction cover art tends to rely on a specific look.

What look? Girl-friendly dismemberment with mystery? No frilly, insulting pinks here, rather, a motif still meant to send men running in the other direction, despite heady blurbs or glowing reviews. Men might even enjoy reading these books, but we’ll never know thanks to these covers that practically beg them not to buy.

Much has been made of fiction written by women with dismembered ladies on the book jackets. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Karen Heller calls these covers “visual splenda”, while posing the important question that I, too, have wondered: How do you choose a book by its cover if all the covers look alike? I’m all for recycling, but aren’t there enough cover designs to go around without reuse? And why do designs of chopped up women continue to proliferate? Do headless bodies sell more books?

The innards of these novels are quite different than one another, despite the sameness of the packaging that might cause a prospective reader to buy the wrong one. In “I’m So Happy For You,” Rosenfeld plumbs the murky depths of female friendship in all of its heroism and green-eyed jealousy. Sex is everywhere. Getting pregnant is a reflection of character. Men have limber fingers and smell like lavender and scotch.

Graff’s novel, which is out in paperback this week, opens with Aimee Albert (the blonde whom we can assume is Jewish, since that’s her wearing the six-pointed star charm) watching a Christmas ham-carving with her goyishe boyfriend shortly before he dumps her. When a dashing Jewish man mistakes her for a non-Jewish woman, she doesn’t correct him and what ensues includes no small measure of lying, stereotyping, and classic Upper West Side guilt. The tagline seems illogical, “Do shiksas really have more fun? Only a Jewish girl knows for sure.”

But what do I know? I’m just a Jewish gal looking for a book to read.

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