Friday, January 16, 2004

RIP Olivia 

Author Olivia Goldsmith, who had gone into Lenox Hill hospital for a plastic surgery procedure and reacted so badly to the anesthetic that she was in a coma for several days, has died at the age of 54. It's a real shame, because as Ed points out, this should never have happened:

Just as she was about to go under, she had a violent reaction to the anesthesia, which incapacitated her. And now she's dead.

All because of an image, all because of a stinkin' author photo, all because we still judge books by their back covers rather than their innards, and all because civilization cannot stop pestering, whether deliberately or subconsiously, the older, the fatter, the more wrinkled, the more infirm, the non-Caucasian, and anybody else who doesn't fall into the harsh physical virtues dictated by Vanity Fair and People. Olivia Goldsmith's death isn't just a terribly premature end for a writer who was fun. It also shows that ideals have spiraled completely out of control. Or perhaps it just confirms them.

Goldsmith's death did not have to happen. And yet it did. And the publishing industry, with concerns of gloss and glamour, won't stop perpetuating these shameful conditions. It will continue defaulting to the purty lil gals (Nell Freudenberger) or the hot young things (Zoe Trope), rather than the magic of the offerings. This is nothing less than a goddam tragedy. Because we lose authors like Goldsmith in the process.

Although I really do believe Goldsmith's solution is relatively rare at least in book publishing (though obviously not in the entertainment industry), I hope it's a wake-up call of sorts to publishers who won't consider authors until they've seen the glossy head shot and assessed their marketability quotient. Sure, it's about what sells, but it's also about the writing resonating with the reader, and if it does, the writer can be a supermodel or a troll--it doesn't matter.

Like I said, a bloody shame.

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