Michael Chabon: Does reverse psychology sell books?

We are all familiar with this photograph of Berkeley writer Michael Chabon. It’s hard to forget, as his bright blue-green eyes stare straight at the observer. They are arresting and captivating.

Chabon is internationally acclaimed for his writing, but the subject of his appearance has gotten lots of ink, too, over the years. Rumor has it that Chabon turned down People Magazine’s offer to name him one of the 50 Most Beautiful People of the Year.

So it is interesting to find out that Chabon’s publisher has changed the cover of his most recent bestseller, Manhood for Amateurs. They have replaced the graphic wheel on the cover with a picture of Chabon as a young boy.

A young nerdy boy. With oversized glasses and a blue paisley shirt.


Chabon’s website says this picture was taken in 1966, when he was about three years old.

Is this cover of a too-adorable-for-words-little-nerdy-boy effective?

Why didn’t the publisher use a picture of Chabon as he is today: a husband, a father, a man? Is this reverse psychology at work?

I did a double take when I saw the new cover, which is probably what the publisher wanted.

I asked Ayelet Waldman, who is married to Chabon, whether this was him as a boy. Her Twitter response: “I think they changed it bc people didn’t run out in hordes and buy the hardcover.”


(Please note: it was a New York Times bestseller.)

Chabon and Waldman will be making the bookstore circuit this month to promote the paperback releases of their respective books. (Her book is Bad Mother, and it is currently back on the San Francisco Chronicle bestseller list.) They will be at Mrs. Dalloway’s on College Avenue at 7:30 pm tomorrow night, May 21.

They are very funny together, a Punch-and-Judy show without the insults.