I received an interesting criticism of my book today, posted by way of a comment on my blog.
You appear to be in some kind of Halloween costume. Jack Kerouac, I presume. How clever.
First off, you are “hitchhiking” on a dirt trail. Who are you expecting to pick you up? Completed (sic) staged. Buttoned down white shirt. Bright, clean and white. Wow, you must’ve been really living “On The Road,” right? Fake. I heard all the Beats traveled with cameras, backpacks, and briefcases. Oh, and over-sized aviator sunglasses of course. Funny, appears to be a bit overcast day in your photo. Sensitive eyes?
My guess is this is a bad photo op from some vacation you took. Painfully-staged “evidence” of hitchhiking abroad, living free, being on the road… Some half-witted attempt to feel like your (sic) walking in the path of your idols. Those you try so hard to imitate.
As I said, this photo sums you up. Fake, staged, phony. You remind of me a bad cover band. Desperately imitating true artists in an attempt to bask in their second-hand glory. Regurgitating their revelations with the depth of a kiddy pool. Putting on a bad costume and shouting “Yeah, me too!”
Quit jerking off drunk to faded pictures of Hunter, Jack, and Allen. You’re only making a fool of yourself.
To the first charge – of using a photo that was clearly staged – I plead guilty, your honour, but request leniency. Name one author whose author photo was taken without his or her knowledge. Unless I trawled Facebook for some drunken KTV shot taken by a friend, in which I was prominently tagged, I’d be unlikely to find a single photo that I didn’t authorize. Additionally, by actually agreeing to have the photo placed on the cover of the book, I’d surely be an accessory after the fact.
As for the white button-down and sunglasses… Anyone who knows me knows that I stick to one style of clothing and buy in multiples. Thus, there’s about a one-in-five chance of any photo being of me including this – or a remarkably similar – shirt. And yes, I do have sensitive eyes. Show some compassion, please! I’m guilty, your honour, but guilty only for lacking a sense of style and requiring heavy-duty eyewear even on a cloudy day.
To the next charge, of hitch-hiking on a dirt path, I plead guilty once again and this time request only a period in rehab. I was drunkenly hiking near the DMZ when this photo was taken. My friend said something like, “Next stop, North Korea!” to which I replied by sticking out my thumb. He snapped the photo, and it turned out alright. Not particularly witty, I know, but the actions of a drunken man.
In the end, I was told to come up with a photo that captured me and caught a little of the spirit of the book. Without resorting to some blurry photo of my greasy face, I went for this. And for that I’m sorry.
As to the charges of impersonating a variety of celebrity authors, your honour, I plead NOT GUILTY and question the mental acuity of the prosecutors. Your honour, have you ever seen Jack Kerouac’s most famous author photo? With all due respect, he looks like a douche.
Perhaps if I was a pretty-boy like Jack, I could get away with a vacant stare into the distance, but I can’t, I’m afraid. I don’t have it in me. Thousands of other authors have tried, and mostly they succeed in looking like authors, but at the end of the day, if you’re going write a book that sounds like a bunch of other books, why not have a author photo that looks like every other author photo?
As for Mr. Thompson, he has a variety of poses, and they’re all – like his writing style – unique and thus pointless to imitate. Besides, I don’t smoke, don’t own a single gun, have never sat in a big red convertible, and I left my motorcycle in Korea.
Mr. Ginsberg would likely have shown up to testify in my defense – who wouldn’t he have defended? – but unfortunately he’s dead and likely reincarnated somewhere in India. I would’ve gladly copied one of his poses, but without the beads, baldness and sense of serenity, I felt it would’ve come across as a real square. Ya dig?
Well, there go the big the boys. The ones I’ve publicly declared interest in. You have any more accusations? Anything else I need to avoid? Well, I guess the prosecution has rested. Great.
I choose to counter sue, beginning with a charge against the entire industry. I may well look like a douche in my photo, hitch-hiking down a dirt path with aviators, a white button-down, a briefcase, and no shoes (that’s right, you missed one valuable piece of evidence), but at least I didn’t fall into the trap of gross unoriginality. Writers may well avoid clichés in their work, but they walk right into them time and time again when it comes to promotional photos.
At the very least, I managed to avoid putting my hand to my face, even though it clearly shows how full of knowledge my head is, and the fact that I think so hard that I need my hand to steady myself.
I also refrained from sitting in an office chair at a computer or typewriter because, let’s face it, if you’re reading my book then you probably know that I can at least type. Also, the whole, “Oh, hi there! I didn’t see you come in…” thing is ridiculous.
Likewise, there was never a chance of me placing one arm casually on the side of my sofa to show how cool and relaxed I am.
But most proudly of all, I avoided using the same style of author photo as my detractor (who, unsurprisingly, goes only by his first name – William). I call it, “Snowman against a Beijing sunrise.”