Utne Blogs > Literature

Hot Authors and Lazy Critics

 by Bennett Gordon

Tags: Great Writing, Media, ,

Marisha PesslWhen I come across new writers on the internet, I almost instinctively Google their names. If I’m really motivated, I’ll check Facebook to see if they’ve got a photo. Call me superficial, but I like to put a face to the writing.

That face can also distract readers and critics from what’s really important—the writing. On Virginia Quarterly Review's blog, Jacob Silverman explores the “hot-or-not syndrome” that’s infected publishing, pointing to the a heated discussion over novelist Marisha Pessl's come-hither book-jacket photo (seen left). The website Gawker, for example, called her, “book hot,” “TV hot,” “college admissions brochure hot,” and “Eliminated first episode of Top Model Cycle hot.”

Minimal space in that coverage was devoted to Pessl’s abilities as a writer, even though her novel was generally well received. Since “no one publishes a book of literary fiction because of how its author looks in a single photograph,” according to Silverman, most of this superficial coverage amounts to a distraction provided by lazy critics.

Outside the realm of literary fiction, where personalities like Julia Allison can get famous for being good looking and great self promoters, the problem could be a bit more serious.

(Thanks, the Millions.)

SourceVirginia Quarterly Review