About a month ago, I was searching for something Stephen King-related to put on this fantastic blog. Scrolling down through rows and rows of Google images for The Shining, most of them screengrabs of Nicholson and the pre-chopped-up girls in the hallway, I saw, in thumbnail size, the above cover for O Iluminado. It looked strikingly similar to an 80s Pantene ad.
I saved the cover on my desktop, knowing I wanted to share it with you all in some way, but not sure how. For weeks, I’d open the file and stare into O Iluminado‘s eyes, and then into her smaller set of eyes. I would look at it for so long it would change; I named the mysterious woman Flavia; she became strange to me and then familiar in her strangeness. I had so many questions.
Who is Flavia? In what public place is she on the cover? Why is she also in a little window?
But let us parse why this book cover is either the worst book cover ever or, perhaps, the most brilliant book cover ever.
The tale of this thing’s creation begins in Brazil with Grupo Editorial Record, the largest publishing conglomerate in Latin America, founded in 1940. We’ll fast forward through the dry publishing history, but it’s important to note that Record has published authors like Márquez and Hemingway (and, of course, King), and that it publishes covers that look like this:
The point I’m trying to make here is that Grupo Editorial Record is capable of making covers that, you know, make sense. When I was doing the research on them, trying to find other nonsense covers, I thought maybe I’d find other Record covers with Flavia’s likeness–maybe she was Record’s mascot and maybe different covers had Flavia doing different things, posing in various ways, like how Keebler sticks the leader Keebler elf on different cookie packages in different celebratory positions. But when I found out Record’s other covers were normal, I was, at first, disappointed that there wasn’t some rogue publisher in South America challenging the world to make sense of its covers. But then, because of its singularity, the O Iluminado cover became even more incredible to me.
Because what is going on here? If Flavia (and little Flavia) only appears on the O Iluminado cover and Record does competent work on every other book it publishes, how…how did this particular book get published with this particular cover? Really. Stop and think about the steps necessary for this to happen. Some time before O Iluminado was published, a photographer and Flavia went to some zoo or park, probably with a makeup artist, arranged her until they all said Sim, excelente and snapped the photo. Here’s a fun game: it’s called Try To Give Yourself an Aneurysm. Think about what the original intent for this photo was. Did that photographer, in the moment he snapped Flavia’s face, think to himself, Yes, this will be a great photographic representation for The Shining? Or was the photo taken for some other purpose, like for a salon or beauty product? The latter makes sense, but then that sense is precisely torpedoed by this thought: if the photo was for some beauty-related purpose, who at Record decided a cast-off beauty shot would be good for a Stephen King cover? AND HOW DID HE FIND IT IN THE FIRST PLACE.
You can turn your own brain against you by dwelling for any small amount of time on basically every step between when the Flavia zoo portrait was taken to the step where it ended up on a book about a man who goes crazy and tries to kill his family in a hotel. It’s a mystery. No matter. I have two leading theories.
I Have Two Leading Theories
1. A lunatic skulked into Record’s design office and changed the cover image from a ominous hotel or something to Flavia and no one caught it.
2. The words between the covers of O Iluminado are actually not the words of Stephen King’s classic but are, instead, an ancient hypnotic demon text designed to convince you, the reader, that it would be a really good idea to take your skin off.
And the strangest thing here is, after a few months of considering Flavia’s enigmatic face, I’m starting understand a little what Jack Torrance felt like. If you look close enough at Little Flavia, I swear, there’s an even Littler Flavia in her left eye. That’s not crazy, right? It’s not crazy that after looking at this cover for long enough, this is approximately what I began to see:
Either way, I’m not ready to rule anything out about why Flavia is on the cover of the Brazilian edition of The Shining. Even a copy of the book for sale is maddening as it states the book is “Presumed first edition thus.” Translation: NO ONE KNOWS WHERE IT CAME FROM. Maybe you can order it for me and tell me what’s inside. You’ll find me playing with the moving topiary animals.
Update: PWxyz’s amazing readers figured out the mystery of Record’s “Best of the Best” series–check out the comments below! Thanks, everyone, for letting restless souls finally take their sleep.