'Blown Covers': Not Ready For The Newsstand There are countless memorable New Yorker magazine covers. But for every one that appears on the newsstand, countless more end up in the rejection pile. Now, a new book collects some of the best rejected covers and explains why they didn't make the cut.
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'Blown Covers': Not Ready For The Newsstand

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'Blown Covers': Not Ready For The Newsstand

'Blown Covers': Not Ready For The Newsstand

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It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

This week's cover of The New Yorker is a witty drawing by artist Chris Ware of a playground full of young children and their watchful parents. One woman wheels in her son in a stroller, only to see that all the other parents are men. It's called Mother's Day.

Here's what we learned from Francoise Mouly's new coffee-table sized book, "Blown Covers." For all the memorable New Yorker covers there have been, she remembers an equally large number of covers that have not been - the rejects that were not quite on the money or a little too coarsely on the money.

Mouly is the magazine's art editor and she joins us from New York. Welcome to the program.

FRANCOISE MOULY: It's such a pleasure to be here.

SIEGEL: And I gather that you have a stack of these drawings in your office that never made it onto The New Yorker.

MOULY: Yes, there's a foundation of what we do. Every week, we search for just the right image, the one that will provoke discourse, such as what you described today by Chris Ware, that's an image that will get us to talk about fathers getting involved. And obviously mothers go to the park not just to take care of their kids, but also it's a form of socializing.

SIEGEL: There's one rejected cover that was drawn at the peak of the Diet Coke and Mentos moment, when there was a viral video online which showed the exploding geyser you can make by sticking a Mento into a bottle of Diet Coke. I want you to describe the cover that never made it.

MOULY: Well, the first thought by Barry Blitt, the artist who came up with this, was to show two little kids in an airplane exchanging Diet Coke and Mentos. So they're about to make an explosion and the stewardess is walking past. And then he tried it with two businessmen, and then he had the right phrasing for it where he had two Arab-looking men passing the Mentos and Diet Coke. And now, you're not mocking Arab people or casting them in a role, but you're making fun of our own fears.

SIEGEL: It didn't make it, though.

MOULY: But one of the...


MOULY: One of the reasons it didn't make, it's because of the point of reference that Diet Coke and Mentos was not necessarily widely enough known. There was an age gap.

SIEGEL: The cover of your book, "Blown Covers" - and I suppose therefore the emblematic rejected New Yorker cover - was, as I understand it, intended to represent the Catholic Church's embarrassment over the child abuse scandal. And it shows the Pope in the Marilyn Monroe pose, standing over the subway grating with his vestments flying up.


SIEGEL: Didn't make it onto the cover of the magazine.

MOULY: Right. And it's a good example of the images that are sent very generously by the artists without fear of embarrassing themselves. But that image made immediate sense to me. I thought it denounced the hypocrisy of the church, not just the scandal but the sweeping the scandals under the rug. And the rule is to not edit yourself when you're an artist proposing images to us. It's let us, or at least let me, look at everything that crosses your mind whether it's publishable or not.

But then I have to show things to David Remnick, editor of the magazine. But here, he happened to have been on a trip and I had one of those rare instances that many other art directors usually have to be confronted with, which is a committee type of editing. And since I work at The New Yorker, I'm surrounded with many very wonderful and smart and funny colleagues. But they tend to be word people. And once you try to rationalize an image, you start wondering what does the Pope have to do with Marilyn Monroe? It falls apart because it's visceral connection.

SIEGEL: Do you in the art department at The New Yorker or at other magazines refer to the word people as the others on the magazine?


MOULY: I may not want to discuss this. Can I draw you a picture instead?


SIEGEL: Now, I learned in the book that the Marilyn Monroe pose that's on the cover, that image of the Pope that didn't make it, there are others. There's a female suicide bomber who is in the same pose with her chador lifted up and the dynamite sticks revealed to us. There's another one of sort of an older - if Marilyn Monroe, I guess, had lived and she's quite old.

I mean, this is obviously quite an iconic image still.

MOULY: Well, that's exactly what the building blocks that the artists are working with, because a cartoonist has to work with cliche. A businessman carries a suitcase. And what you are hoping is that they will use those cliches to make a new point and to make you see something that you thought you understood in a new way. The challenge that they give themselves is a picture of our times.

SIEGEL: Well, Francoise Mouly, thanks a lot for talking with us.

MOULY: Oh, thank you so much. It's been a real treat being here.

SIEGEL: The book is called "Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant To See."

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