“Are you two the ones in these photos?” I was greeted by Lee Bob Black, pointing to a photograph borrowing from American Gothic. Black, who runs a literary program in Harlem and teaches 12-year-olds how to write poems (you can see them here), withdrew his question after my friend Sara and I stepped further into the room (I swear it was the lighting).
We were here for the release of Canteen Magazine’s Hot Authors issue, which combines the “literary with the lascivious, the genius with the glam,” as well as a panel discussion on the topic of “Marketing Literature in the Age of Gawker.” I was bit anxious about Gawker having achieved its own “age,” but was interested in the revolving question of the night: Is there a glamour deficit in literature?
In an effort to reduce this deficit, Canteen Magazine paired 15 writers with 15 fashion photographers and did professional shoots for their “Hot Authors Issue.” Black, who wouldn’t go so far as to say the photos were ironic, did find a small comedy in the project of “doing fashion magazine photos of writers who are normally portrayed in bland, unmodulated ways.” As the panel would later reveal, it is paramount to have a dog included in your author’s picture if you want to be marketable.
The host, Garth Risk Hallberg, announced “we can officially start because my beer has arrived” and thus began the panel’s discussion on glamour, literature, and self-promotion. Fiona Maazel, said she was “appalled by self-promotion. Process is its own reward, not publication.” She continued, “If I get naked [in this room], no one will buy my book. If I say something intelligent you might go out and buy my book.” Most of the room disagreed, hitting on a debate throughout the night on where the writer starts, and stops, as entertainer.
Maazel, who led the purist camp, went back and forth with Erin Hosier, who commented that “writers are the most replaceable people on earth,” and as such we are forced, in some capacity, to show that we are not replaceable. Christopher Koulouris added, “It’s not just a case of beautiful people misbehaving [as a means to self-promote], but also talented, smart people doing great things. They deserve attention, too.”
The discussion continued, and the three takeaways that the panel left us with, and I quote, “1) Publishers suck, 2) there are not enough readers, and 3) writers, well,” — that last one was left unanswered. But for this writer, I found the discussion lively and drunk, two ingredients that help add a little bit of glamour to anything.
Canteen (Word) Cloud: masturbation, anachronism, Moby-Dick