Ilze Berzins


A Colby College coed peeks shyly out from the cover of The Blood Red Teardrop, my most recent publication. The coed is partly nude, but not for long. The nice librarian at Waterville Public Library is about to plaster a barcode across the offending body part: the boob—or, more specifically, the offending nipple. Cathy explained to me that some patrons deface book covers they deem improper, redacting any offending body part with a big black marker.    

I’m okay with the barcode. That’s nothing compared to the months of proscription I’ve endured here in Maine since the publication of this book late November 2011. In fact, the Waterville library is more progressive than the hoity-toity Freeport library which refused the kind donation of The Blood Red Teardrop claiming that the entire cover was offensive. No mention of the word boob or, God forbid, nipple. Is that so strange when you consider that, years back, the word breast was not allowed to be printed in USA newspapers?

Moving on: The Executive Director of the Maine Alliance of Writers& Publishers wrote me this doozie: “I think you and I pretty much agree, however, when was the last time you saw a book on the NYT bestseller list with nudity on the cover.”

There’s more: Maine books reviewer Bill Bushnell embarrassed himself by sending me (by mistake, I guess) a mean-spirited e-mail intended for his friend Sharon. Apparently Bill and Sharon had been engaged in a Berzins-bashing exchange. It seems old Bill got too aroused by the nipple to do his job. Too bad. No one reads his drippy reviews anyway. As for his boss, The Morning Sentinel: that local rag would be out of business were it not for billionaire Don Sussman who bailed it out just in time.

Finally, bookseller Mr Paperback: Some weeks ago the manager removed The Blood Red Teardrop from its display and sold the book from behind the counter, claiming that patrons were coming into the store and turning the book around so that the offending cover was out of sight. Then, lo and behold, all Mr Paperback outlets went out of business. Not because of the nipple of course but I can’t help wondering…

Still there’s the bright light of my favourite bookstore, The Gulf of Maine in Brunswick. Gary, one of the delightful owners, stated, “With a cover like that, of course the book is prominently displayed.”

That being said, people enjoy reading the book. In fact there’s a waiting list for it at the Pittsfield Rehab and Nursing Centre and the girls at Waterville Public Library are standing in line for the book—barcode and all.