Wednesday 26 March 2008

the choice of one's author photo is a thing one should not make lightly. As I write this, I have a dog subbing for me in the 'profile' photo over there on the right, while I wait for a decent image to turn up. They get harder to find as you advance, it goes without saying.

Back when I was living in Britain in the early '80s, on those occasions when I picked up the Guardian or Observer (on Sundays) for something special, such as Posy Simmonds' 'Little Match Girl' colour Christmas comic in 1984 (which I reread yesterday), I'd always notice Sue Arnold's photo at the top of her column, and feel an urge to keep it. Having no function in my filing system for salting away something so random, I'd just clip the photo, or the whole column, and stick it in with the other article I was saving, knowing that I would accidentally come across it at some future date. I did it quite often, and one day when my heirs are rummaging through my files they will have cause to wonder about this odd obsession, this paper stalking.
I have no way of knowing if the lady herself looked just so, or if she did but several years in the past, as one often finds with author photos, but that is beside the point. An image has its own life and makes its own way in the world. If the Mona Lisa could have tilted her head just so then we would have understood the half-millenial appeal of that famous portrait, and the mysterious allure of the smile is about equal. Perhaps the spectacles conjured for me the possibility of an imaginary scholarly soulmate. Today, when the wife of my bosom looks at me over the top of her specs, as she has of late needed the ocular assistance, then flags flutter in the heart of Eddie Campbell.

I wondered what the lady journalist had been up to since I last filed her author photo, and was horrified to find that she had lost most of her abilty to see. I was also disturbed by the way the internet leaves all our positions on an argument still jostling side by side with no minder between them should a fight break out.
Smoking dope restored my sight
Journalist Sue Arnold wrote in The Observer in September 1997 of how smoking Skunk temporarily restored her vision.
Why I ditched my liberal views on dope Sue Arnold wanted to legalise cannabis - until the drug triggered a psychotic episode in her son
The Observer, -Sunday January 18 2004.

Oh well, I think in my next profile photo I shall go for that professorial look over the tops of my specs. Every time I look at it I'll be reminded of a pair I used to have that would always be slipping down my snozzle. 'Why do you wear your glasses on the end of your nose?' a girl once asked me. 'They'd do me no good on the end of my willy.' I replied professorially.



Blogger Matthew Adams said...

Now I really wish there was a song out there titled 'Spectacles on my testicles'. It might contain lines like "my one eyed willy looks a bit silly wearing only a monocle, while with a contact lense on its end it only looks half respectable."

Yeah, It's a little bit clumsy, but it is now only a work in progress.

26 March 2008 at 20:23:00 GMT-5  
Blogger James Robert Smith said...

I've noticed that a lot of so-called liberal journalist types in Britain are re-thinking their positions on legalizing cannabis. I was interested to see that even The Independent had gone back and changed to a position of reinstating criminal charges for its possession (is there such a word as "recriminalisation"?). Which is very strange, as far as I can see.

I've always been amused that some authors use photos of themselves when they were much younger. My weight fluctuates widely (like my gut)--I always get fat when I'm not able to go hiking and backpacking. But I don't change any promo shots of myself taken when I'm more physically active.

26 March 2008 at 21:11:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yike...that explains why Sue Arnold reviews the audiobooks every weekend in the Guardian's book supplement. That's been her regular gig for some time now.

Speaking of author photos, my good friend Jeff VanderMeer had a couple of postings about them recently. This was the last and funniest.

26 March 2008 at 21:12:00 GMT-5  
Blogger spleenal said...

this is the picture I use on my blog. it looks a bit like me

27 March 2008 at 04:19:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

It does too

27 March 2008 at 04:31:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Hayley Campbell said...

Oi, you! Yeah you looking sideways!

At the book fair in Paris I went to last March, the publishers made all the authors sign books under a huuuge blown-up version of their carefully posed author photo. In it they were invariably dark and brooding, strong-armed and terrifying, or just incredibly beautiful.

The squirrely creature beneath it (as Michael Chabon once described writers, I recall) was generally beige cardiganed, small and tired looking.

Except for Neil. He was always looking sideways.

27 March 2008 at 07:16:00 GMT-5  
Blogger spacedlaw said...

Not always, Hayley...

27 March 2008 at 08:47:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Erik Halverson said...

Naturally, if it concerns the self-interest of the "artist", it can be found in William Gaddis' brisk debut 'The Recognitions'- from somewhere near the bottom of page 936:

"It was in fact quite a thick book. A pattern of bold elegance, the lettering on the dust wrapper stood forth in stark configurations of red and black to intimate the origin of design. (For some crotchety reason there was no picture of the author looking pensive sucking a pipe, sans gĂȘne with a cigarette, sang-froid with no necktie, plastered across the back.)"

28 March 2008 at 00:02:00 GMT-5  
Blogger spacedlaw said...

Did wee Callum take that new picture?

28 March 2008 at 05:33:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...


no, The camera inside the computer took that one. wee Cal did take a thing the other day for a school project, which is very elaboarate and artistic. I'll post it soon

28 March 2008 at 18:34:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Ms Baroque said...

So funny! I've always liked that picture of Sue Arnold, in fact in the early 80s when I'd just come to Britain it was why I read her column. But I never saved it.

6 April 2008 at 06:39:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Ms Baroque said...

By the way, love your new pic. And by the way, I always look over the tops of my specs, always have - why? Because over the tops of my specs is right there.

6 April 2008 at 06:41:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you looked on the back cover of the Banged Up trade recently?

18 June 2008 at 08:55:00 GMT-5  

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