selva oscura (anonymousblack) wrote,
selva oscura

don't leave me stranded here, i can't get used to this lifestyle

dear simon & schuster,

look. i understand. it's about money, and times are tough in the publishing industry. i mean, right now, times are tough everywhere, but times have been tough in publishing for a while. even back in 1995, they were tough, the manager of my first bookstore glanced away as we transitioned into discussing my hourly wage. "there's not a lot of money in retail and there's almost no money in book retail," she told me. largely, times have been tough in publishing because the industry made it that way with its long history of gatekeeping and the egregious waste of resources (including talent!), but that's not the axe i'm grinding today. exactly. this is not exactly that axe, except in how everything kind of goes back to the gatekeeping and egregious wasting of resources (including talent!) in publishing.

no, today i'm only touching the tip of that very deep iceberg: what you've done and what you keep doing to the legacy of cleo virginia andrews, whom you initiated to your ranks/put in her place by stealing her name, too feminine, gatekeeping gatekeeping, men won't read books written by women, and didn't let her know about the change until she saw it on the galleys. robbed of her gender. could it have been beneficial to you in the long run, dear simon & schuster, to let a few y chromos discover upfront that women can write books worth reading, too?

not that this is a problem now, though now there's this surreal situation of a male author writing as a bestselling female author whose name was changed into something more masculine because a woman's name apparently wouldn't sell, take that, creative irony!

again a tangent, and showing my hand. been down this rabbit hole for a couple weeks now, and i have a great deal to say on the matter, but i digress. what i am here to talk about today is: the cover of flowers in the attic. CLEO VIRGINIA'S first of SEVEN books that CLEO VIRGINIA actually authored, concept to final line, with her actual author's groundbreaking, extremely readable and distinctly flawed vision. CLEO VIRGINIA'S books dealt with social justice concerns like child abuse, the long-term social impacts of extreme wealth disparity, and disability. her books examined gender inequity and the exploitation of women and children. how difficult it is to even get by when trauma has stacked the odds against you. CLEO VIRGINIA earned and continues to earn you a literal fuckton of bucks, simon & schuster, and your shameless exploitation of her forcibly remodeled name is, quite frankly, despicable.

deep breath. different writing for a different time and, perhaps, venue. the reason i'm writing to you today is to remind you that: 

this is the cover of flowers in the attic.

the only cover. the true cover. it's a powerful mix of understated and bold. in early editions of the paperback, the foiled details of this cover opened to a "stepback," a glossy, photo-realistic portrait of the main characters as first glimpsed through the attic window. a lot of work went into developing the cover of this book, and it shows. it's excellent work. a product of its time, to be sure, but in a way that evokes that uncanny dated timelessness permeating the text within. it's a fairytale, it's a dream, it's the perfect marriage of graphic design and fiction. it's iconic. and i understand: foiled details and stepbacks weren't going to be sustainable for subsequent editions of a pulp fiction blockbuster that's never been even a little bit out of print in the 41 years since it was first published. i mean, maybe you could've rolled out a fancy vintage edition for its 40th, bet the kids would've gone for that, retro is the new new, but that doesn't solve the problem of the flattened version of this cover not quite making sense to new readers - maybe, more importantly, not quite feeling as magical. that's what first drew me to cleo virginia's books: they were magic. forbidden texts about secret things. closing those black and shiny covers and opening them again constituted one of my first magic rituals. didn't hurt that the copy i found on the library swap rack when i was twelve smelled of what i would eventually understand to be patchouli incense. what i'm saying is: i'm biased. also, i'm not alone. the problem of the flattened cover was something an invested published could have resolved, in a meaningful and respectful way. instead, it's yet another failure in your handling of the andrews brand since her death in 1986.

shortly after the publication of dark angel.

that's right, for those of you not experienced with this rabbit hole: every v.c. andrews book published after dark angel was written by an able-bodied male ghost writer cleo virginia never met.

this is almost the cover of my current edition of flowers in the attic, purchased from amazon marketplace in 2017. the title in the image is bronze-foiled and embossed, mine is flattened and saffron. note: i'm skipping the 1987 movie tie-in edition in this commentary because it's not really part of the legitimate ancestry of FITA covers. brief smirk at "legitimate ancestry" in reference to FITA aside, the motivations and visual material designers are contractually obligated to work into the cover of a movie tie-in novel do not generally make for "iconic." this isn't iconic, either. it's busy and derivative of a far superior design. it's off-market andrews, that's what it is, and every time i look at it i'm sad that it isn't my old patchouli-scented copy.

then there's this shit. what is this shit? it's an ad for a feminine hygiene product, and a bland one at that. flowers in the attic! summer breeze in the basement!

CW: references to the content of flowers in the attic

let me remind you that this is a book about horrifically abused and abandoned children born of incest who tragically fail to break their family legacy of incest. spoiler alert, right, the eldest doll child rapes his younger sister as punishment for her expressing interest in a man to whom she's only legally related. should the cover be see what it says there, right? i'm not hallucinating it? "the classic novel of forbidden love?" what is wrong with you, simon and schuster? sections of this book are basically torture porn. if someone asks you "what is trauma bonding?" a decent answer would be a copy of flowers in the attic, and then a copy of petals on the wind, and then oh dog, a copy of if there be thorns. cleo virginia explained trauma bonding to me, and she did it with the dollangagers.

having said that, here's my mic drop: the cover of the 25th anniversary edition, released in 2005:


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