or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 1/10/10

   January 16th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Skeletons at the Feast book coverA patron walked up to the desk one morning and said:

My book group met last night to talk about Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian. A question came up that we couldn't agree on, so I hope you can answer it for us. On the cover of the book there is a woman in an orange dress - who is she?

The patron went off to look for her book group's new selection, and I started searching. I haven't read this book and didn't know what the cover looked like, but I was hoping she was asking which character the cover represented, and not who the actual model was.

After a searching for various combinations of the title, author, "cover," "woman," and "orange dress," I found something rather surprising on the She Reads and Reads blog:

Have you seen these women?

The first lot of similar covers I’m featuring this week are Lives of the Saints by Nino Ricci, Blaming by Elizabeth Taylor and Verbena by Nanci Kincaid:

Similar book covers

Working in a library, I've seen a lot of similar book covers, but I don't think I've ever seen the exact same stock photo reused before. This makes me sad, because it reinforces that it's probably the publisher making decisions like this, rather than the author.

With that in mind, I next looked for Chris Bohjalian's website to ask him who he felt the woman in the orange dress represented. Delightfully, he provided an answer a few days later.

I let the patron know the next time I saw her, and she was very happy - thrilled, actually, to have an answer right from the author. So yay for Web 2.0 and direct dialog.

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