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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

The Postcard by Anne Berest

To say I was possessed by The Postcard and its author, Anne Berest, is not an exaggeration. I was possessed, obsessed, and grateful. It is 475 pages that I only put down when my eyes felt swollen: a novelized true story of Berest's family's experience when Nazis invaded and occupied France and Berest's investigation of that many years later. It is only called a novel because Berest wanted to write it as a nonlinear novel with dialogue and full characters, changing names of collaborators so that their descendants would not be persecuted, but this is a copiously researched investigation of what happened, who did what, and how Berest came to be a secularized Jew—when she began her investigation, she didn't identify as Jewish, look Jewish, had never followed the religion or been in a synagogue and had no experience in the culture.


This mystery, quest, hunt—told with all the dramatic tension of such stories—quickly became one of the most deeply personal experiences I've had. Read More 

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Review & Cover Complaint: "Leg--The Story of a Limb and the Boy Who Grew from It" by Greg Marshall

Leg: The Story of a Limb and the Boy Who Grew from It (Abrams, June 2023) by Greg Marshall


What an explosively entertaining memoir! Raucous, ribald, and really well written. I've been reading a lot of history full of pain and statistics, so Greg Marshall's memoir was a welcome and uplifting relief.


One complaint: the cover art of a perfectly proportioned naked man bugged the hell out of me. It was chosen by Lithub for a list of best covers for June 2023, but I would love to hear from others who have actually read the book—a book whose title is about a badly distorted leg and a lifetime of experiences that are affected by that.


(By the way, I felt the same ire about the original hardback cover of Susan Jane Gilman's equally hilarious novel The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street—a pair of elegant ankles—when a major character feature is the protagonist's damaged leg/ankle. This cover was changed (because of the outcry?) on the paperback and the hardcover is no longer listed on Hachette's website.)


Leg's cover design, as noted by Lithub, is striking, but imagine how much more striking it would be if it accurately portrayed what's inside this fabulous memoir about having Greg's leg and body's condition willfully kept from him, being gay, and being part of a family that made all that, as well as cancer, dying, etc. hilarious!


Not only is the perfectly proportioned man given in front view, but he's on the back cover in rearview, and as if to put a button on the lie, there is a gorgeous well-muscled leg on the spine.


I protest this design and, having worked as a managing editor of a magazine, can imagine the endless meetings discussing it: "We can't show a real crippled body and leg—people won't buy the book; they'll be turned off or shocked. Focus groups have shown people may say they are accepting of differently abled people, but when it comes to spending money, after seeing an image of one . . . !"


Have the balls (yes, big balls also make several appearances) to match the cover to the daring, irreverent, explicit interior. Trust the reading public to be intrigued and want to read it even more. (If somebody is turned off by an accurate cover, they would probably not be a happy audience for this fabulously original work.) Because I liked this book so much, every time I picked it up, those pictures felt like an insult, and I can only imagine how a person with a disability would feel.


Images matter. If we don't see it/them/ourselves in artistic representations, it is foreign—even to the people who live with being "different."

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