1. Tao Lin and beef jerky (not pictured). 2. The panel discussing the state of celebrity [L to R: Garth Risk Hallberg, Tao Lin, Fiona Maazel, Erin Hosier, & Christopher Koulouris.]

“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.

1. Lee Bob Black and a drink. 2. Vogue… err, Canteen issue 17.

Tao Lin, who is featured in the magazine eating a pomegranate while lying in bed, said he had fun doing the project but proposed that next time they might pick younger writers. When I pushed to ask if he found himself attractive, he explained that attractiveness was secondary to the project of the photo-essay, and that the primary purpose was “to show that anyone can look glamorous.” 

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

 

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—Craig Moreau, author of Chelsea Boy, has just finished a book tour and is currently drinking a beer. He is interested in identity, democracy, and word-clouds.

3 Responses

  1. Tim

    Hi,

    While I appreciate the sentiments put forth on the panel, and in the latest issue of Canteen – how the hell do we make writers and writing more prominent, marketable etc – I’m not sure ‘glamour’ is the right tone for the age. Outside of the bubble of Manhattan (and perhaps central Brooklyn), we’re living in rough and increasingly turbulent times. I’m not arguing for socialist realism here, but perhaps some recognition that the writer’s role might mean something very different in five years from now than it has since the ‘celebrity writer age’, which I guess began in the late 90′s.

    I’m not ‘appalled’ by self-promotion – hey, it’s always been part of the arts in one way or another – but having been around East Village scene in the 90′s, where self-promotion was a kind of religion, I’d say there are limits. Ultimately, we have to ask what it means to be a writer? Why does writing matter? What is the writer’s role in difficult times?

    Best,

    Tim

    Reply

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