Historical novelist confesses: I love this anachromism

gilded-top onlySo here, I’ll open up what will probably be a very short discussion: I love the book jacket art for The Gilded Hour, but I can’t deny there’s a big anachronism right in the middle of it. The novel takes place in 1883, and photo on the cover shows the Washington Square Park arch. From the NYU website:

Inspired by Roman triumphal arches, this structure was erected in 1889 to celebrate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration. It replaced an arch on near the site which was a temporary structure made of wood and stucco. Having met with popular approval, Mckim Mead & White’s original design was rebuilt in marble in 1891.

The story is in 1883, the cover art photo was taken sometime between 1889 and approximately 1905. And I okayed this cover because I love it. It captures something elemental about the period that I am trying to convey: that IS my story, and I AM sticking to it.

Now, the very talented person who put the cover together worked hard at finding just the right photo, and he was terribly unhappy when I pointed out the problem. Apparently he sorted through a thousand photos looking for one that was both accurate and atmospheric. I happen to know from personal experience that this is not an easy undertaking. And so I agreed to go with this (in my opinion) truly beautiful cover art.

My editor, in trying to make me feel okay about it said: won’t the later books in the series get to 1889? Which is an interesting comment, as my contract with Berkley doesn’t touch on “later books in the series.”

I dream of reviewers pointing their fingers and howling at me.  It’s like Reagan during Iran-Contra. I can confess to knowingly doing something wrong, or let people think I didn’t know something I should have known.

Note: I do realize that the book jacket of my tenth novel can’t reasonably be  compared to Iran Contra.  I even realize that few people would have noticed the anachronism if I hadn’t hung bells on it with this post. And I’ll admit straight out that  anachronisms are almost impossible to avoid in historical fiction (ask Shakespeare), and there will be other flubs I’ve missed in this novel. (This is not an invitation to go looking for them, in case you’re wondering.)

But I’m hoping confession will be good for the soul. Or at least put a stop to imaginary reviewers pointing out what is now obvious.

 

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