Thursday, September 4, 2008

What's with celebrity authors?

And by that, I don't mean celebrity like famous. Stephen King - famous. J.R.R. Tolkien - famous. Dan Brown - famous.

I mean when publishers are attempting to create celebrity out of their authors, which is especially funny when that celebrity buys into the Hollywood conception of fame and beauty. After all, you can't be famous unless you're beautiful.

Example #1 - Jonathan Franzen. The Corrections was, admittedly a good book. Not as good as Franzen wanted it to be (apparently it was his attempt to write the "great american novel" after being called out on his complaints that no one has written one recently...). And it does, of course, have the distinction of being the only book removed from the Oprah Winfrey book list. (I'm pretty sure that despite the controversy, Million Little Pieces is still "on" the list.) Franzen didn't want to be associated with the "pop" culture of Oprah's other books, as it would apparently demean his literary aspirations. (I would like to note at this point that included on the list before Franzen was added were Toni Morrison, Isabel Allende, and Joyce Carol Oates - maybe Franzen was just a sexist...) However, getting to my point. Here's the picture of Franzen off his book jacket:

Now, here's a more candid shot of Mr. Franzen at a reading:

Not completely damning, I must admit, but you can definitely see how the first image was tailored to strengthen the chin and heighten the cheekbones.

Now, exhibit #2 - Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame - soon to be a Major Motion Picture. Ms. Meyer drew my attention when she declared she was too upset about a leak of her manuscript onto the internet to release her next book in a timely manner. I don't know if she's thin-skinned or whiny. And I don't really care. What I do find funny is the press photo that accompanied the story, seen below:

Very pretty woman. Almost like a grown up version of Michelle Trachtenberg. Unfortunately, if you thought Franzen's image was interesting, here's Ms. Meyer's candid shot:

Now, I'm not pointing this out to be sexist. I (hope) I'm pointing out the inherent shallowness, and even sexism of the celebrity industry. Franzen's photo got a little touched up - it's acceptable for a man to not be "sexy." Meyer's photo looks like it went through a Victoria's Secret makeover - god forbid a woman should be less than perfect in today's mass market.

Finally, my final note is that Meyer's books are being made into Hollywood films. Another vampire author, Charlaine Harris is having her books made into an HBO series. I guess HBO doesn't care too much about the touch-ups, because here is Ms. Harris' photo off her very own website (and I couldn't find a single picture that was substantially different from this one):

1 comment:

Momagain said...

Have you seen J. Franzen in person? I did last year here in SF. He is actually VERY good looking. Much more like the first photo than the second. Mind you, he is not of a mind to care how he dresses when he goes out, speaks, etc. He's more about authenticity than show. His personality/attitude reminds me of someone else I know...

Also, I think the Oprah thing was the result of not asking permission before being declared an Oprah pick. Authors have to be very protective of their rights as I'm sure you know.