pessl 1I noticed that the new book I’m reading (Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl) has a very sexy author photo on the back of it. And then I remembered that the last book I read, Flower Children, had a similarly sexy author picture. In both pictures, their heads are tilted coyly to the side and their eyes scream, come into my author photo and rip my clothes off! (see right for Pessl’s book jacket shot). Neither of these books are about particularly sexy subject matter.

I looked at a few other author pictures off of the backs of young women’s novels that were lying around my apartment. One after another, I came upon more and more of these pictures — all come-hither glances and bedroom eyes, like those mall glamour shots.

pessl 2Then I looked up actual pictures of these people on the internet and they looked like normal, kind of nerdy, likeable women writers. You know, with personalities besides wanting to make it with whoever is reading their book. Even more importantly, they look comfortable (see left for Pessl’s normal picture).

Now, I know a lot of this stuff is out of their hands and has to do with their publishers selling books (I remember my professor, Brady Udall, telling us that before his first novel, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, was bought, the publishing company flew him out to New York to get a look at him for marketing reasons). But that doesn’t mean that we, as a freakin’ gender, can’t start recognizing that this is happening. Don’t even get me started on Halloween and the complete lack of non-sexy costumes for women. Do I want to be a sexy devil or a sexy ghost? A sexy fox or a sexy bunny?

snowSince I’ve started my blog, for example, I’ve gotten a few negative emails. It’s normal. But each of the emails have immediately devolved into pointing out that the picture on my blog is goofy. Not attractive. Even my own mother has suggested that I put up something prettier. I don’t know though – I want my picture to reflect what I feel and what I write about, and I guess that would be kind of awkward and a little self-conscious. And yes, goofy. Would my posts come across differently if I posted a come-hither photo of me? (Yeah, this picture is ridiculous. Yes, I got rid of that coat. No, I have not yet written a published novel. Please don’t write me an angry email.)

Now, I’m not saying that sex or being sexy is bad – for men or women. And we should embrace it or reclaim it or whatever we feel like doing with it. And if you already bought your sexy firewoman costume for the end of the month, that’s fine, too. Let’s just hold back on being sexy every once and a while, just when we need a little break – like when we want to have fun or goof around or, perhaps, when we want people to read our book for the words inside.

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