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Saturday, June 02, 2012

Why don't writers look charismatic?


One of the basic tenets of arts journalism is that whereas even the puniest rock star looks at least a bit like a rock star all novelists look like, at the very best, librarians.

Try as they may, and publishers spend fortunes on having them photographed in different styles, they never seem to look charismatic. They never look as if they've actually been anywhere or done anything. It doesn't matter how hard the imagemakers work you still look at the picture and think, here's a man who's spent days looking out of windows trying to think of a rhyme for the word "orange". He hasn't been doing much other than type.

I was in the National Portrait Gallery just now and found myself looking at the Chandos portrait of William Shakespeare (above). They can't prove it is Shakespeare. I'm a believer. The greatest writer of the ages and he looks like the owner of a small haulage business somewhere in the Midlands. It must be him.

8 comments:

  1. When The Sun Readers tackled Edward Rutherfurd's Dublin, it wasn't helped when we saw his photo on the dust jacket. Here is a man who was standing at the head of the queue when pretentious gazes were being handed out.

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  2. Yes. All except for Ian Fleming of course.

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  3. They were lyk that because they were never interest about how they look.totally submerged in their writing..

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  4. Fair point, David, but in Shakespeare's day, they probably didn't have Youtube and so on. Can you imagine a videoclip of the bard writing Hamlet? I bet that would be quite a crowd-puller. It's not Will's fault that he was given the bored monarch treatment.

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  5. PS. What about MY photo, taken in my son's bedroom with a Ramones backdrop? I look pretty cool by writers' standards, don't I?! Surely, anybody can see that this guy has lived a bit?? OK, time to make breakfast...

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  6. Exceptions include Samuel Beckett and Mark Twain who both look how you would imagine them from reading their books.

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  7. And what do librarians look like?

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