Gustav, a regular visitor and contributor to this blog, posed an interesting question to me this week: do you prefer to see a picture of the author inside the cover of a book that you’ve just read and that you really loved?
Having given this some thought, I think I’d say my preference is not to see an image of the author, mainly because – consciously or not – it will influence how I experience and judge the story (either before, during or after I read it).
By seeing an image of a writer, there’s a chance I’ll form/change my opinion of their work, having been influenced by their age, gender or ethnicity; I may judge the quality of their story against who I think they are, particularly if any of those physical traits seem contradictory to the story I’ve just read.
As humans, we tend to create stories for other people based on how we perceive them – which of course will always say more about us than it does about them. Josh Weinstein captured this concept brilliantly in his short doco Cross Examination (which I blogged on earlier this year in April).
This certainly doesn’t mean I’m not interested in an author’s background, personality, motivation etc. In fact, often when I read a book I love, the first thing I do is search online to find interviews with them. But at least using that method, I fill out my ideas about the writer based on their words, not what they look like (although, granted, that will still play a part if I see them on television or at writers' festivals).
So Gustav, I agree that seeing a photo of an author can be distracting.
Of course, none of these things should matter. A good story is a good story, regardless of who the writer is and what their life experience is. Which is an excellent lead in to my next blog, when I want to talk about The Hand That Signed The Paper and its infamous author Helen Demidenko/Darville.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on the topic: do you care whether or not you see a photo of an author you enjoy?