• Here’s the Story

    I wrote a book called The Forest for the Trees and it’s an advice book for writers. For four years, I blogged every day about the agony of writing and publishing, and the self loathing that afflicts most writers. A community of like-minded malcontents gathered and thus ensued a grand conversation. Now, the most popular posts are gathered in Greatest Hits ( a work in progress) Gluttons for punishment can scroll through the archives. If I've learned one thing about writers, it's this: we really are all alone. Love, Betsy
  • Archives

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face*

I have a bad habit. Okay, I have several, but here’s the one I’m most proud of: I think I can tell how somebody writes by looking at their author photo. And basically that’s how I decide which of the Important Books to skip, because really, who has time to read them all? Before you have a freakout about how mean I am, I swear it’s not a beauty contest. It’s more subtle than that. There are some bushy browed dogs out there who still do it for me, who really seem to inhabit their faces the way the voice inhabits the page. I’m looking at you Philip Roth. Not a beauty, but a Dick That Gets the Job Done. Ditto Bukowski, says my friend Sean. Maybe Fran Lebovitz isn’t a conventional beauty, but I like the vibe she gives off in a photo.

Jonathan Franzen, not so much. I mean, way to man up for the cover of Time, homie. I know he’s America’s Author, but all I see is America’s milquetoast. I suppose he’s conventionally handsome and the article mentions his perfectly tossled hair, but I look at his face and I think of the word limpid. I flash back to how he deprived Oprah’s masses of his gifts on the grounds that he didn’t want to, or something. I see pictures of Jonathan Franzen and I think of all the emo narcies who ever tried to teach me to crochet. Five bucks says he sits down to pee.

This is why I haven’t finished The Corrections and why I’m making it my Life’s Goal to make it through the new novel. I have a feeling it’s a much more rigorous Forrest Gump. Even as I write this I feel that guilty tug of you guys in my ear: You don’t even know what you’re talking about. All the reviews are raves. Read it before you judge. But I’m telling you I’ve already made up my mind.

Botox. I’m not against it. There is a way to use injectables in moderation, so that you still look like you’re made of flesh. But Mary Karr: frozen in bitchface. Can’t read her stuff, don’t like her attitude. I imagine if she were a visual artist, she’d paint in menstrual blood. Her perma-scowl makes me want to pick a fight about the origins of her stupid faith.

For Botox done well, see John Grisham, Jackie Collins and Justin Bieber.

Who can’t you help but loathe on sight?

* Erin Hosier, whose blog style is “on the rag,” is not the same person as Betsy Lerner, whose blog style is “perimenopausal” and on vacation.

53 Responses

  1. Wow, it seems like Mary Karr shit in EVERYONE’S cornflakes over at the old DCL. I would pay cash money on the barrelhead to hear THAT story.

    Way to hold down the fort with a flourish in BL’s absence, Hose.

  2. There’s an image of Annie Dillard that made my mother and I run screaming from one of her books. Ms. Dillard looks delicately, deliberately rumpled, and she’s wearing a white collared shirt of some sort, which is all fine, but it’s … the way she looks out at me, over her glasses … so self importantly … and incidentally, almost, like, “Oh, hello, you are reading my book today?” … yet so … all knowingly. Ugh. I am actually against author photos. They’ve turned me away from many a book. That may be superficial, but it’s the reality of the matter. I judge a book by it’s covers, back and front, inside flaps, paper weight, heft, texture, font, author photo, everything.

    • *its! (must fix my typos in a lit blog …)

    • Annie Dillard is as boring as they come.
      CH 1: 67 consecutive descriptions of a leaf lying in a stream. . .
      Ch 2: 53 ways the sun hits the bark of the oak tree. . .
      . . . can’t wait to see all the ways a dandelion bends in the wind, in Ch 54!!

      • The only book of hers I’ve read is “For the Time Being.” I read it three times, I liked it so much. I didn’t want it to end, but I’m glad it did, as I have other reading to do.

    • I think you may be missing some good books in your physical assessment. Personally, I am disappointed when I can’t put a face to an author.

  3. I hate it when author’s do sexyface in their photos.

    Margarets Awood’s author photos always kind of speak to me. They say: I may be a tiny genius but I know seven ways to kill you with my pinkie finger.

  4. Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown. Their photos are precisely why I don’t read their books. Or maybe it’s just because I don’t like their subject matter. Or both.

  5. “Who can’t you help but loathe on sight?”

    Sarah Palin (but she’s not a writer).

  6. My lack of reading for pleasure between the years 1991 and 2009 leaves me with little experience from which to draw. I did recognize Roth, though. I like to imagine a three way with him and Leonard Cohen.

  7. I was at a writer’s conference once, where a well-known writer I won’t name read a Franzen passage as an example of how even famous people can write pretentious garbage. The whole huge room screamed with laughter at the stupidity of the prose.
    What I’ve noticed is, the literary writers look more natural, while the more “Hollywood” the book, the more made-up, fancy and botoxed the author photo.

  8. It’s milquetoast

  9. I only glance at photos if at all. I’ve been living in the land of ‘we mostly don’t give a damn what we look like’ and it’s rubbed off. It’s kind of liberating. But I still bathe every now and then.

  10. Nobody’s gonna answer ‘Who can’t you help but loathe on sight?’ with a mirror reference?

    Betsy would be ashamed. I mean, more than usual.

    • I was going to, but I was too ashamed to admit it.

    • It was the first answer that popped into my mind, but it seemed too easy. It’s not true, anyway, not anymore. Hell, I don’t loathe anyone on sight anymore. I lied about that SP person I tagged. I only loathe her (and other loathsome prats) upon contemplation, for political reasons with which I shall not sully this blog.

  11. Tony Blair, on the cover of “A Journey” and, as my kids say, “in real life”.

  12. I wasn’t freaking out enough about having my face on a jacket flap. Thanks for making me wish I’d never been born.
    Wonder if I could just send them a stick figure? I’d be skinny, at least.

  13. Out Betsying Betsy – great!

  14. who wrote this extravaganza? betsy announces she’s going on vacation but then the wild ride is said be written by BL and she responds in the comments about typos, yet others in the comments are saying it’s erin. who is the author, please? ~ i went through an entire summer of hating phillip roth’s guts. ‘just call me bubbles!’ i kept yelling into the empty air of my apt. and okay, i’m going to say it, not because i don’t totally heart BL but i cannot help but ask – is this going to get me banned? okay – the question is: do you ‘hate’ JL and MK because they’re two that got away?

    • Hey Madonna – Though I’m logged in as “betsylerner” I swear I’m “erinhosier”. I’m just too lazy to log out of Betsy’s WordPress to resubmit my own comments. (I’m so in with her she simply gave me her password.) FYI, I am often “The Hose” or “Crackdabbler” on here. As far as I know, Betsy tries not to participate in the comments, as she claims it’s best to avoid conflict even as she incites it. Anyway, I’m the MK hater in the office and that’s because I had the misfortune of meeting her when I was a young agent and she committed a girl-on-girl crime against me that I still resent her for (a professional one). It’s my own personal grudge. I’ve heard she’s simply wonderful with her students and I’m sure her writing deserves all its accolades, but I will forever see her picture and flash back to the moment when the demon inside her struggled to reveal itself in my presence. It only came through her steely black eyes because that forehead was frozener than the Devil’s hard on.

  15. I definitely think Franzen needs to get rid of his blind stylist. However, I’m hesitant to be ruthless, since in a recent snapshot, I look like Linda Blair in the exorcism scene from the Exorcist, but not as attractive. The botoxed bitchface look is calling to me.

  16. Philip Roth more than gets the job done for me. I bought his books for years and never read one until I had to for a group. The writing fits the picture perfectly– they both make me swoon.

    I don’t care about the photo until I’ve read the book. Then I’m curious.

    Great post! I expected to dislike whatever you wrote just because it wouldn’t be Betsy but I loved it!

  17. At this particular moment? I hate anyone who is published and actually HAS an author photo. But honestly, when I do? I rather inspire to be frozen in bitchface.

  18. I don’t understand what you think “limpid” means. Look it up in the dictionary,

    • You’re right, Claude, limpid is a poor word choice for boring. I think I meant that I think of him as fulfilling a role in American culture – The Great White American Literary Hope, a person who actually set out to write the GAN and then did. He whined about it when he should have been jumping in the air on The Oprah Show – even the Gayle King radio show – like that guy from the Toyota commercial from the 80′s.

      Johnny Franzen never had me at hello. I don’t think there’s anything mysterious about his talent or his subject matter. I don’t think he has the ability to incite. He doesn’t seem to have the fire.

      But that’s why I’m going to read FREEDOM, which we should all read – let’s start a book club! – and I’m going to try to be really objective and optimistic. I actually want to be normal, I want to like something normal!

      • “The adjuration to be normal seems shockingly repellent to me; I see neither hope nor comfort in sinking to that low level…for surely anyone who achieves anything is, essentially, abnormal.”

        Dr. Karl Menninger

  19. Erin, arriving a little late, back from Fire Island with a tan. You are hysterical!

  20. I loved your post, too! And your “Betsy” comments!

    I’m old-fashioned; I go by the reviews — one on Amazon mentions “sexual assault.” That’s it for me. No, thanks. Plus the cover is ugly. Hideous, in fact.

    I loved the first author photo of Terry Pratchett. It totally went with his earlier Disk World books, which are fantastic.

  21. That picture annoys me. Maybe it’s the Clark Kent glasses. THE CORRECTIONS annoyed me, too. I read it, but I never understood what all the fuss was about

    .

  22. You are one funny woman. I’m still chuckling over ‘Five bucks says he sits down to pee’. Describing his face as ‘limpid’ is right on. As for Roth, can’t abide the man or his writing. I see a Satyr with psycho-sexual hangups flogging his manhood while he writes the same story with variations over and over and over again. Way overrated in my estimate. As for the Karr woman–if the photo is post botox she appears to have a decidedly dubious expression.

  23. Franzen looks like he was just turned down for a role in True Blood. No wimpy vampires, mon ami, even if you’re into Lafayette, you just need more, what? infusion into the picture. Besides, those glasses, always those glasses; it’s like the blind date I had way back when black glasses were cool and intellectual and oh soooooo effete and snobby. Besides have you ever seen one vampire wearing glasses? Refused to take them off, refused Oprah….
    I will try to read Freedom, although, I haven’t ever been able to finish his first (???) but from the reviews- sigh KAKA – it hasn’t got a clue about the real middle class America.

    Got to go…..Al Pacino in Central Park. I’m sooooo hot!

  24. five bucks says you stand up to pee in a public stall, leaving behind hose spray

    a half-hearted attempt at undertanding why people need to bash other people… what a great country we are

  25. Annie Dillard’s facelifts are part of her whole “Who, little old exalted me?” look.

    Franzen cracks himself up so much when he reads that he can hardly manage to keep reading. If he were Jeannette Franzen writing these boring, self-indulgent, domestic novels, I doubt we would have heard of her. It’s the literary equivalent of celebrating a man who changes a diaper, wow, superdad!

  26. These comments are scary. Honestly, it’s funny…but not enough to balance out the blatant caddy-ness of making fun of people who do not count their physical appearance as their greatest talent anyway.

  27. “Sits down to pee.” So now you’re making fun of my hobbies?

  28. [...] Erin Hosier, guest-blogging for the vacationing Betsy Lerner, has taken Jonathon Franzen to task…for looking too ordinary on the cover of Time Magazine.  It seems he’s neither sufficiently gorgeous, nor dangerously ugly. [...]

  29. Roth was pretty hot when young, I think. Well, actually, I think he’s still hot, even though he’s allegedly not so nice to his lady friends. ALLEGEDLY.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,667 other followers

%d bloggers like this: