Two new books that came out days apart but have absolutely nothing to do with each other both feature on their covers the same photo of two bonobos having sex with each other in the missionary position. The photo is a pretty famous black-and-white one taken by the primatologist Frans de Waal; the books whose covers it graces are Erotomania, a novel by Francis Levy published on August 1st by Ohio-based indie press Two Dollar Radio, and I Don’t: A Contrarian History of Marriage that Bloomsbury published just a week earlier. It should be noted that the photo appears left-to-right on Erotomania and right-to-left on I Don’t.
Still, it is a funny coincidence! An even funnier one is that Daphne Merkin, the New York literary critic and author, blurbed both of these books. Of I Don’t she said:
Written with an incisive wit and an unshowy audaciousness, I Don’t is an absolutely compelling read—a must for anyone, man or woman, who has wondered about the war between the sexes and the truce that is marriage. Steeped as her book is in historical detail, Susan Squire proves herself to be that rare breed: a scholar with a light touch, writing with a deftness and fluency that lifts her comprehensive knowledge and closely informed readings to the level of literature. This is a book that informs while it entertains the reader—a truly original take on its subject.
And of Erotomania she said:
Erotomania, although one can trace bawdy influences– from Rabelais to Henry Miller– all over the place, is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It offers a hermeneutics of the erotic, bu turns shameless, funny, romantic, and poignant. Although ostensibly about the search for a real-life woman who can live up to the narrator’s vision of sexual bliss, the novel is really about the way we long for intimate connection in and beyond bed. Written in the form of a spiritual quest for a carnal idee fixe, this novel wears its avid penis on its sleeve and is all the more surprisingly affecting because of it. I applaud it.
We called Ms. Merkin for comment—honestly, what’s the deal?!—but haven’t yet heard back. Expect an update when we do. Messages have been left for Mr. Levy and the publicity director at Bloomsbury as well.
NOTE: Initially the bonobos in the photo were referred to here as chimpanzees. The error has since been corrected. Wouldn’t be the first time we’ve mislabeled apes. More to come tomorrow.