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Oswald And His Sister Are Doing It Again

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, Bret Easton Ellis returns with a new novel, his sequel to Less Than Zero. Man, does 25 years fly by. I was an editorial assistant when LTZ came out. How many words in Eskimo are there for “jealous.”

I picked up the Metro paper on the subway this morning, featuring an interview with BEE. Huge picture, wearing aviators, holding a rocks glass, jacket, shirt no tie, a whisper of chest hair, a grin-almost-smile, with LA fogged out in the background. He walked out on NYC after 17 years in favor of my fantasy home, LA. I didn’t even know he was gone. Like they say at Yankee Stadium when you hit one over the fence, See ya’!

The interviewer comments, “Nice author photo. It seems to sum up your life in LA.” BEE responds,” Every single author photo I have has been carefully choreographed. I wanted this one to look older and douchier than that louche young man in a loosened tie I took when I was 21 for Less Than Zero. This one took two days to pull off.”

I love him for that. Especially the internal rhyme of “douchier” and “louche.” I so flubbed my author photo it’s not funny. Granted, it would have taken more than two days to pull it off, still. What are some of the worst author photos you’ve ever come across. And what the hell do you want from a writer anyway?

31 Responses

  1. I would respect BEE more if he just came out and said, “I wish I were Mark Whalberg.” Although, that picture pretty much does the job.

    I hate it when women writers go for “hot.” Other than that, I don’t really care what writers look like…

  2. I think it would be very funny to put a picture of my dog in the author picture. Who knows when my book gets published I will do it.

  3. Oh, it pains me to say it, for I love him so …

    Worst author photo — Shel Silverstein. Giving children nightmares since 1974.

    • Ha! They make fun of Shel Silverstein’s photo in one of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books. The main character says his parents used to tell him that if he didn’t go to sleep, Shel Silverstein was going to come in the night.

      All he needs is a black mask to pass as a bank robber. Or a pirate.

      • The only thing worse than the photo on the back of The Giving Tree is the words inside.

      • The Giving Tree is to me an s&m how-to simply and sadly illustrated.

      • Isn’t S&M supposed to be -fun-? The Giving Tree is more like ‘The Triumph of Mrs. Portnoy.’ I hate that fucking tree. I guess you’re supposed to hate the kid, but my only problem with him is, he never pulls out a wood-chipper. ‘And the tree was happy.’ Fuck you, tree. I wanna write ‘The Stump Grinder,’ which ends with: “And the boy was free.’

      • shel silverstein.jpg

        (I don’t know if this is going to go thru but here’s my attempt to post a picture of Shel Silverstein with ‘crazy eyes.’ It’s on page 5 of the image results on google for him.

        Until now I’ve never thought his author photo was bad. I’ve read the giving tree many times and still love the story.

      • Delicious topic–classics we hate.

  4. I love George Eliot’s photo, Colette’s, and Doris Lessing’s. Hate it when a writer looks like a real estate agent.

  5. Although I love Nick Flynn’s stuff, his jacket photo is terrible. He looks like a thug or a punk or a thuggy punk stoner. But the dude is nothing like that and looks nothing like that.

  6. I feel like I’m eating my young to say this, being Very Big on defending the romance genre, but some romance author photos are half-baked at best. Glamour Shots, or whatever, that knuckle under the chin thing has gotta go.

    My previously published books were paperback originals and no photo. The YA I just sold will be hardback, with a photo. I’m thinking of a distance shot. Like, me at one end of a football field and camera at the other. “And there’s Marla Hooch. What a hitter!”

  7. There is an odd photograph of Stephen King in the paperback version of, On Writing, something peculiar about the placement of the hands, and the pants. His wife took the photo.

  8. My first publisher asked for ten copies of my author photo. I knew I needed professional help, so I made an appointment with a photographer who does beautiful work.

    When I walked in, he made the same face the baseball recruiter made when he first met Marla Hooch (thanks, Stef). When he had me posed behind a tall chair, he keep stuffing filters into the camera then backed up until he hit a wall.

    When the book came out, there was no photo. The publisher said they lost them. None on my later books either. A thing like that could give a girl a complex.

  9. The picture of Jeffrey Lent on the back cover of Peculiar Grace is just the creepiest. He’s just got to be hiding an ax out of sight somewhere. I prefer writers posed in natural settings, wind blown at the shore, country-porch-sitting-lemonade-drinking or some such. That’s weird too, I guess.

  10. On the back of his most recent novel, Stuart Woods looks like an elderly woman. I swear he’s wearing lip gloss. (Those books are the literary equivalent to Pringles, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.)

  11. For a while there was a weird trend for female poets to have pictures taken of themselves, chin in hand, head tilted slightly against fingers, and a smug smile. Shudder.

  12. Embalmed Mary Higgins Clark.

    And really, even if she is one of my favorite writers, the shot of Alice Sebold on the trade paper version of LB is just disconcerting. Like I should hold it another way but can’t figure out how.

  13. Nothing beats Danielle Steel’s author photo’s. She either incorporates the theme of the book somehow (look I’m on a ranch!) or the shots are staged to remind you haw ludicrously rich she is- i.e. wearing a fur coat in a ferrari- or both. And then there is the one where she is sitting on the beach on a stool (a stool! on the beach!) in a long diaphonous skirt. You know, just cuz.

  14. Honestly, one feeling I’ve always gotten about Bret Easton Ellis is that he’s just trying too hard. If it really took him and a crew two days to pull off his most recent author photo, that’s another example for the list. And if it didn’t take two days (which I sure hope, because no way is that picture good enough, or complicated enough, to be worth two days’ work for any decent snapper), then the claim that it did is itself an example of trying too hard.

    I think most author photos on book jackets would be more appealing if Frank Zappa were substituted for the real author.

  15. i’m for the absence of author photos. sometimes they kill the fantasy. take TC Boyle, for instance. a goof. loveable but a goof.

  16. My favorite is the uber-narcissistic (and, ahem, heroin addicted) author whose photos always lag behind her publication date by, oh, about 20 years. Although she actually doesn’t look that bad, real time, considering her decades of abuse. Although she could use a sandwich. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that, because this is the internet and not a slumber party. The walls have eyes.

  17. I have to get my author photo taken in the next month or so. I already had a complex about it, and then I read this thread, so now I have an even bigger complex.

    (But I’m pretty sure I’ll avoid going for either louche or douchey.)

  18. “The Diana Chronicles,” biography of the late Princess of Wales, written by Tina Brown had a photograph of Tina Brown where you could tell she was trying to look like the Princess — the hair style, and a similar pose.

  19. I like the idea of having some alternate photo on the flap. That is, a random photo of someone other than the author. “This is author’s friend of 10 years. She lives in Vermont with 2 ferrets and a chocolate lab”, “This is some guy who signed a release form for this shot. He was on his way to get groceries when this picture was taken and had forgotten his umbrella.”

    Just to say, “don’t you see? This is irrelevant.”

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