Friday High Five: Seriously silly authors and childhood psychopaths

When serious authors wear silly outfits

Looking for an end-of-week giggle? Flavorwire has published a selection of photos of writers looking silly. There’s Susan Sontag sitting at her typewriter in a bear suit, snapped by her partner Annie Liebovitz; Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Wolfe (resplendent in his signature cream suit) inexplicably perched atop a lifeguard’s tower; Maya Angelou hugging a Muppet on a visit to Sesame Street, and more.

Susan Sontag, somehow looking dignified in a bear suit. Photo by Annie Liebovitz.

Susan Sontag, somehow looking dignified in a bear suit. Photo by Annie Liebovitz.

Authors working overtime in digital age

We’re all working harder in the digital age, it seems, and authors are no exception. The New York Times reports on all the extra work expected of authors these days. Not only is there Twitter, Facebook and the expectation of being available for online Q&As and the like … but impatient readers, used to downloading books at the press of a button, are leading publishers to drive their authors harder. Genre writers who used to produce new books at the rate of approximately one per year are now ‘pulling the literary equivalent of a double shift, churning out short stories, novellas or even an extra full-length book each year’.

Once was a columnist: Mark Dapin

Mark Dapin’s long-running Good Weekend column recently ended – and he’s taken the opportunity to reflect, for Meanjin, on the strange job of being a columnist, while the memories are still warm. It’s a characteristically funny piece, with seem terrific insights into the privilege of diarising in public, getting used to being recognised on the street, creating a persona and battling with bristly readers and online trolls.

In my second Good Weekend column of 2012, I mused that there’d been a lot of ‘lifestyle’ columnists around a decade before, waxing whimsically and repetitively to a diminishing audience, yet I was one of the last men standing. One issue later, the new Good Weekend editor, Ben Naparstek, axed the column.

Mark Dapin: 'A column should live for two years, not ten, and I’d become increasingly weary of living with such a high public profile.'

Mark Dapin: 'A column should live for two years, not ten, and I’d become increasingly weary of living with such a high public profile.'

I was a childhood psychopath

Last year was the year of the psychopath, with Jon Ronson’s book The Psychopath Test fascinating readers around the world – both with its criteria for psychopathy, and its questioning of how useful (and accurate) it is to categorise people.

Can the psychopath test be applied to children as young as five? What are the consequences of labelling children – and what are the consequences if we don't?

Can the psychopath test be applied to children as young as five? What are the consequences of labelling children – and what are the consequences if we don't?

This week, the New York Times explores the question of classifying children as psychopaths, asking what such a classification can do to a child’s (and their parent’s) life, and what the costs are of avoiding such classifications simply because they scare us. The writer profiles one family with a nine-year-old boy who fits the classification. The mother’s analysis of the situation is particularly chilling:

She mentioned an episode of Criminal Minds that terrified her, in which a couple’s younger son was murdered by his older brother. ‘In the show, the older brother didn’t show any remorse. He just said, “He deserved it, because he broke my plane.” When I saw that, I said, “Oh my God, I so don’t need that episode to be my life story down the line.”’ She laughed awkwardly, then shook her head. ‘I’ve always said that Michael will grow up to be either a Nobel Prize winner or a serial killer.’

Under the covers of the New Yorker

Last fortnight, we mentioned Blown Covers, the book of rejected cover art from the New Yorker, edited by Francoise Mouly, the magazine’s long-time art editor (since 1993). All those curious about the process of cover design will be fascinated by the interview with Francoise on Salon this week (originally published on design blog Imprint). Mouly, who tells her artists to ‘think of me as your priest’, says:

Tasteless humor and failed setups are an essential part of the process. ‘Sometimes something is too provocative or too sexist or too racist … but it will inspire a line of thinking that will help develop an image that is publishable.’

A 1997 cover by Harry Bliss, who sketched then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani's paranoid psyche in the wake of the assault of a Haitian immigrant, by white NYPD officers.

A 1997 cover by Harry Bliss, who sketched then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani's paranoid psyche in the wake of the assault of a Haitian immigrant, by white NYPD officers.

Related posts