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Likely Stories

A Booklist Blog
Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Thursday, August 30, 2007 1:15 pm
News Flash: Beauty Worshipped
Posted by: Keir Graff

Like most people, I enjoy complaining about the unfair advantages — money, connections, good looks — that successful people have used to reach their¬†advantaged stations in life. So I was eager to read Sharon Steel’s article (“Aesthetic Genius,” the Phoenix*) about the extra attention paid to good-looking writers. Rubbing my hands, I anticipated the rich pleasures attendant in¬†commiserating that there are those out there who can’t possibly deserve what they’ve gotten — if Nell Freudenberger (Lucky Girls, 2003; The Dissident, 2006) looked like Kurt Vonnegut, she couldn’t possibly have gotten published, I gripe to my inner barstool crony.

(Followed by “Am I right? Am I right?” To which he replies, “When you’re right, you’re right, Ralphie Boy.” I then remind him that my name is not Ralph. Again.)


(Or, if I were more contemporary: meh.)

I didn’t find any news, or even a new angle. Yes, in theory, publishing should be more of a meritocracy than, say, TV news anchoring — but it’s not like they just started putting headshots on book flaps yesterday. If great-looking guys and gals are getting an edge, well, maybe it’s not right, but it’s hardly confined to publishing. And obsessing¬†about that kind of stuff doesn’t do much good whether you’re a fan of literature or an aspiring author. (I know from first-hand experience that writers love to discredit other writers’ successes. I also know that doing so doesn’t actually help you publish your own manuscript.)

Really, the article could have stopped after paragraph six, where Steve Almond (The Evil B. B. Chow, 2005; Candyfreak, 2004) says:

"It’s easy to blame the folks in publishing for being so superficial and cynical," says Almond. "But the fact is, it’s the culture at large that enforces these values."

(Almond actually had something even better to say on the topic a while back, in a different venue.)

If it looks like I’ve posted a lot today in order to make up for not posting yesterday, well, yes — and I’m out tomorrow, as well. And Monday. See you Tuesday.

*which I remember from college as the Boston Phoenix



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