Friday, 25 April 2008

Judging a book by its author

I’ve recently agreed to make the odd contribution to the Big Blog of Marvel, a new blog commenting on all things magical realist. The founder, Tamara Sellman, has asked for a picture and bio, which a lot of places do now, but which set me thinking. On Serendipity we do the same, and the magazine somehow seems to have one of the finest-faced bunch of contributors around. I promise this isn’t intentional. I don’t go around asking good looking women to submit stories, but that doesn’t stop them from doing so. (In fact, the people I have actually approached for submissions tend to be big fellas with beards, a lá Jeffrey Ford and Steven Savile). As well as the Pootle herself, there are an increasing number of others: Phyllis Anderson, Maria de la Rosa, Joanna Gardner, Julie K Rose, Kate Aton-Osias, Flavia Baralle, E Nesbit (okay, so she didn’t actually submit her story, but she fits in with the crowd)…

There was an article in one of the literary supplements a year or so ago asking whether we choose books based just as much on the way the author looks, as the blurb or recommendations. One of the examples given was of Peter Høeg, author of Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow. I can’t say I bought the book myself for Pete’s striking Nordic looks (I bought it because I liked the cover), but I think this is a valid point. I mean, would you buy a book written by this man. No, I thought not. Seriously though, Steve Redwood submitted a really old picture of himself for the publicity shot for Prime’s edition of Fisher of Devils, as he was worried that not being a Hollywood-faced thirty-something with Zadie Smith and Toby Litt for pals would somehow impact on his success. The thing is, I’ve a feeling he might be right. The only other option is for him to put on a few pounds around the waist and grow his beard out a bit. Am I wrong here? Don DeLillo seems to make a point of not wanting his image used to market his books, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of Michael Chabon either. Are they both really ugly, or do they just have a level of literary integrity and a lack of ego missing in most writers?

1 comment:

David Isaak said...

Just for the record, Mike Chabon is quite good-looking and has great hair.