Sunday, December 17, 2017

Cover Art Rabbit Hole, Someone Wrote a Story and the Internet Lost its Mind

Here’s why I need to stop reading advice on the internet: I’m looking into one final option for novel publication before going solo with self-publishing. Said option requires nominal “book cover art”, so I spent a good portion of yesterday scouring the internet for public domain images that might fit the bill. I found myself rapidly careening down a rabbit of hole of ever-more bizarre non-sequitur image searches, until by the end I was frantically typing in strings of words such as “art woman rain blues sad ink umbrella.” You see, according to the wisdom of the internet, one’s book cover image must be simple, yet emotionally impactful. It must be colorful, but not too colorful. It must reflect the narrative thrust of your story, but be visually uncluttered. It must immediately draw the reader in, but not distract. And have no doubt that your book will fail spectacularly if your cover art is not up to snuff in every way. The end result is that I am sick of looking at images of sad women in the rain with umbrellas, and I still don’t have any cover art.

I wasn’t going to wade in on this, but against my better judgment, here I go: The New Yorker recently published a perfectly decent short story about two emotionally inept, communication-challenged people who went on an awkward date, and the internet proceeded to completely lose its mind. I kept seeing headlines about the story, and I finally felt compelled to go and read it myself. I really don’t understand the uproar, the gist of which seems to revolve around a lot of buzzwords like “emotional labor” and “intimate justice.” My experience of reading the story seems to be vastly different from the majority—unlike most of the women who are weighing in on it, I did not relate at all to the main character, and in my estimation, the story is fairly unremarkable. My main thoughts were, “Oh, how sad. They don’t know how to talk to each other,” and “Cripes, this chick is an emotional limp noodle.” That’s about it. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it had the internet’s collective head not exploded over it.

What I did find interesting is that the story seems to be scientifically designed to invite massive amounts of personal projection. The main character is a classic Mary Sue, the sexual situation the two get into is just ambiguous enough to be interpreted as non-consensual, and the male character seems to have caused universal discomfort simply by being mildly oafish. I find it fascinating that such an ordinary, even somewhat dull story could spark a million think pieces in under a week. My take? The female character was not a victim, the male character was not an ogre, both of them were equally incompetent, and if there really is such a thing as "emotional labor," women can avoid that burden by not bloody performing it. The last time I checked, we still had a little something called personal agency, a fact that seems to have been forgotten of late.

On the writing front, I’ve given up on the sonnets entirely after deleting the one I’d been working on in a fit of a rage. I think what I need to do for a while is draw or paint or color. Sometimes that helps loosen things up a bit on the writing front—to shut down the “thinky” parts and get some blood flow going to the more intuitive, unconscious parts of my brain. I have art supplies squirreled away all over the apartment for just such occasions, and I plan to drag them out and dust them off. A little coloring feels like just the ticket in these drab, dark Northwest days.

--Kristen McHenry


Jo-Ann said...

This is what happens when the internet loses its mind.
As for myself, it was an okay story ... but I feel more that the author was just in the right place at the right time.

The Good Typist said...

Hi, Jo-Ann! Thank you for the postcard! They always bring a smile to my face. 7 figures??? *Sigh* Well...good for her, I guess. *Stares forlornly at her own unpublished novel*. I agree, I think the timing was excellent. I don't know what else to say. I'm still having a hard time understanding why so many people related to the main character so intensely, but the people have spoken. What're you gonna do, right?