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I’ve noticed a
strange thing
A literary theory
By Joseph Skibell
2/18/2015
1
Hello, I’m Joseph Skibell
2/18/2015
2
Recently a student
of mine told me
that her mother
had logged onto our
college’s website
and had seen a
picture of me
there.
2/18/2015
3
This is that picture:
2/18/2015
4
“Why, your professor
looks just like …
2/18/2015
5
…Hugh Grant,” the mother
said.
2/18/2015
6
It’s a flattering
comparison, I suppose,
but in truth, it’s nothing I haven’t
heard many times before.
2/18/2015
7
Of course, I’m sure no one
ever says to Hugh Grant,
“You know, Hugh, you look
just like that writer Joseph
Skibell.”
2/18/2015
8
But that’s okay, because
lately I’ve noticed a
strange thing. A lot of
best-selling writers seem
to resemble famous
people from non-literary
professions.
2/18/2015
9
Tony Earley, for instance,
the author of Jim the Boy
…
2/18/2015
10
…looks just like…
…Anthony Edwards from ER.
2/18/2015
11
Earley could win an
Anthony Edwards LookAlike Contest.
2/18/2015
12
And my theory is that
this gives the reader an
extra little thrill, as
though he or she were
reading a novel by Dr.
Mark Greene, Edward’s
character on ER,
scratched out between
patients in the
emergency room.
2/18/2015
13
There are more
examples: Am I the
only one who noticed
that short-story
writer Nathan
Englander…
…looks a lot like …
2/18/2015
14
…Roger Daltry?
2/18/2015
15
I can’t help wondering…
…if Englander’s readers experience a subliminal pleasure
imaging they’re reading a book by the singer of the Who.
2/18/2015
16
There’s a kind
of SeparatedAt-Birth
syndrome at
play here, I
think.
2/18/2015
17
Michael Ondaatje…
…does sort of look like …
2/18/2015
18
…Peter Ustinov.
2/18/2015
19
And, as Tom Wolfe points
out in his Electric Acid
Kool-Aid Test, Ken Kesey
did look a bit like…
2/18/2015
20
…Paul Newman.
2/18/2015
21
Put glasses on J.K.
Rowling…
2/18/2015
22
…and she resembles …
…John Lennon!
2/18/2015
23
It doesn’t even have to
be a real person.
2/18/2015
24
Jonathan Franzen …
2/18/2015
25
… looks like Clark Kent.
2/18/2015
26
The philosopher Ken
Wilber …
2/18/2015
27
… like Mr. Clean.
2/18/2015
28
Some writers
look like
other writers.
2/18/2015
29
The playwright Naomi
Wallace …
.
…looks like the playwright Sam Shepard.
2/18/2015
30
And there are some
writers who don’t have
to look like successful
people from other
professions, because they
themselves have been
successful in other
professions.
2/18/2015
31
As a movie star, Sam
Shepard looks more or
less like Sam Shepard the
writer.
Movie
Star
2/18/2015
Writer
32
The same is true for
Wallace Shawn.
Actor
2/18/2015
Writer
33
Leonard Cohen the
poet/novelist resembles
Leonard Cohen the
singer/songwriter.
author photo
2/18/2015
album cover
34
Although Cohen also
looks like Israeli novelist
Amos Oz:
(Or is it the other way around?)
2/18/2015
35
You can’t tell me their
success as actors or
singers doesn’t help to sell
their literary work.
2/18/2015
36
Or that the glamour of
actors like Rupert Everett
or Ethan Hawke doesn’t
carry over from their films
when they look for an
audience for the novels
they write.
2/18/2015
(Both these men are novelists.)
37
So, all I’m saying is, as
you browse through your
bookstore, if you happen
to pick up one of my
novels, I hope, while
you’re looking at the
author’s photo, you’ll
vaguely, almost
imperceptibly, recall all the
joy I’ve given you over the
years …
2/18/2015
38
… in films like About A
Boy, Bridget Jones’ Diary,
and of course, Four
Weddings and a Funeral.
2/18/2015
39
A Blessing on the Moon
and
The English Disease
by Joseph Skibell
are published by
Algonquin Books
and are available at fine
bookstores everywhere.
2/18/2015
40
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