Monday, October 17, 2005

End author photos!

Frances Wilson in The Guardianthinks writers should be read but not seen...
Author photos are always embarrassing, either for the author or the reader, not least because of the seduction they strive to achieve (which is by no means exclusively sexual). It is embarrassing for authors to choose or have chosen a flattering picture of themselves - which process often involves disregarding current age or agreed likeness - and embarrassing for readers to be confronted by such importunings. In this sense the author-photo differs from the mass marketed iconic images of writers such as Shakespeare or Beckett or Virginia Woolf, which offer not a personal invitation to intimacy but an official statement of fact: this is what a Great Writer looks like. Where the author-photo fails to seduce it tends to repel or at least to irritate the reader, and the reading of the book becomes a negotiation with the author's image; is he or she cleverer or less clever, as attractive or less attractive, more or less insufferably narcissistic, than he or she looks?

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