Elizabeth Wurtzel's coverup

"Bitch" to get a more modest look in paperback.

Published May 3, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

If sex sells, why has Anchor Books decided to cover Elizabeth Wurtzel up? On the hardcover copy of her 1998 Doubleday book, "Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women," Wurtzel exposed all. But on the new paperback, the author of "Prozac Nation" doesn't bring nearly as much to the table.

"The publisher was nervous about the cover being too offensive," a source close to the project told Salon Books. "The response from the bookstores was poor. The book wasn't doing too well, and some thought that the cover was just too much."

Not that the original Doubleday jacket was entirely over the top. Since Wurtzel's paean to high-maintenance women in the tradition of Delilah, Sylvia Plath and Hillary Rodham Clinton was controversial even between the covers, Doubleday must have sensed that there was a danger of retailers' failing to appreciate the title and the jacket image of a topless Wurtzel raising her middle finger. To tone down the package, the author's nipples were airbrushed out, creating a different kind of fallout. When Entertainment Weekly pressed Wurtzel's editor, Betsey Lerner, for a comment, Lerner responded, "Elizabeth doesn't have any nipples."

"Honestly, I liked the first cover more, but I'm a different audience," the source close to the book said. "People in New York wouldn't have a problem with it, but outside New York is a different story." As it stands, there's less justification now for accusing Wurtzel of overexposure.

By Craig Offman

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

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