Friday, June 14, 2013

More ugliness

Once again, there's another blog post speculating about the importance of an author's appearance on the reception and success of their work.  (Jonathan Franzen still hasn't let it go, either.)  Jeffrey Meyers, however, doesn't limit himself to just one author, however--he composes an ugly list of 26 authors!  (As well as one of "handsomist" authors for comparison.)  And, unlike Franzen, he considers both men and women as ugly, instead of just singling out one author for his disdain.  (Also, I don't get what his methodology is for deciding whose last name is sufficient for identification, and who requires a first name--other than all of the women have first names (because it would be too confusing to figure out which writer with the last name "Schnackenberg" he was referencing?).)

Meyers explains his "admittedly subjective judgment" as including "the homeliest, obese, and sometimes even disfigured" authors.  Further, I'm pretty sure that no one on his "handsomist" list is non-white (and in my subjective opinion, I disagree with many of his assertions--I mean, Kingsley Amis?  Really?).  Meyers agrees with Franzen's basic premise--in Meyer's words, "Physically attractive authors make their work seem more appealing.  Their lovely faces provide tangible evidence--beyond their creative talent--that they are superior beings, have become sacred icons and are themselves a work of art."

Rubbish!  Do people actually believe this?  That meeting certain physical characteristics genuinely makes people superior beings (let along the "sacred icon/work of art" part)?  Why does phrenology keep such a strong hold on the imagination?

Meyers observes that "though unattractive women are taken more seriously than great beauties, neo-Platonic authors believed that beauty reveals inner goodness and ugliness suggests evil."  Evil!  Really!  I suppose that, if nothing else, Meyers is reinforcing what I expect the last chapter of my dissertation to be about: female characters in southern literature who, to whatever extent, choose to be ugly.  For many of them, this choice is a signal of allegiance to seriousness, to the intellectual life, the kind life led by those spinster, schoolmarmish women which W. J. Cash referred to as "horse-faced" and attributed to ugly Yankee spinsters.

Even though Meyers includes men in his hot/not lists, his commentary is primarily reserved for the women (excepting his odd aside about Hemingway claiming that F. Scott Fitzgerald wasn't all that).  I fail to see the purpose of the continuing production of such essays, other than to annoy me.  Their judgements are subjective and prejudiced, their assumptions are flawed, and their conclusions are insulting.  Dear Internet: KNOCK IT OFF.