Saturday, January 31, 2015

Plain of Feature and Certainly Overweight


When I saw this picture, my first thought was that it looked a good bit like my sweet paternal grandmother -- and probably a  bit like me.  Then I saw that it was Colleen McCullough -- author of THE THORN BIRDS (which has sold a gazillion copies) and that she had died.  I don't remember if I ever read the novel  -- I did see a bit of the mini-series but all I can remember of it is that I really disliked Richard Chamberlain. 

But that's not what I'm here to talk about. It's the obituary one Australian newspaper published. In the headline they note that she was a novelist and a neurophysiologist -- and then open by calling her a charmer -- despite being 'plain of feature and certainly overweight.' 


Predictably, there was a bit of backlash from many who felt that this was inappropriate and that a male novelist of a similar standing wouldn't have had similar treatment. Maybe so, maybe not.

I do know I admire McCullough for being comfortable in her own skin. 

We all have different approaches to aging and appearance. And it's more difficult for those in the public eye. At the other end of the spectrum there was Barbara Cartland, the best selling author in the world with sales of over a billion.  She cultivated her image as Queen of Romance and was known for her hats, her clothing, and her jewels. I haven't read her either. 

But the more I look at McCullough's face, the better I like it.

 






17 comments:

Ms. A said...

I think it's quite inappropriate, too. What difference does her looks have to do with her work, or anything else for that matter? I have a feeling I'd be much more comfortable around Colleen, than Barbara.

Victoria said...

I'm sorry to hear that Colleen McCullough has passed. I loved "The Thorn Birds" although that's the only one of her books I ever read. Didn't care much for the mini-series.

I've never read anything by Barbara Cartland, since romance novels bore me.

The comment about her looks in her obituary was, I think, both inappropriate and disrespectful. When I read a book, I never wonder what the author looks like. I don't care. What I care about is their writing!

June said...

"...she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth."
Well thank Gawd she had that wit and warmth, or we would've had to burn her at the stake years ago for those plain features and that weight!

Juliet Batten said...

That is appalling. I totally agree with you; it's her writing that matters, and as for her looks, I like the look of her.

Thérèse said...

To be reduced to one's look!!!
In fact I do remember a book I liked from her: "Morgan's run" about first English convicts sent to Australia.

Mary Anne Rudolph said...

Have you ever noticed that there are usually no author photos on children's or YA books? I find that interesting because I always look at the author photo on adult fiction. It doesn't really make a difference when I decide to check a book out of the library, but I do always look. That said, disparaging remarks in an obit about one's appearance is just plain of brain.

Brian Miller said...

we are who we are...i wonder if it mattered to her?

Barbara Rogers said...

Speaks to our current level of patriarchal civilization, me thinks. How often do you hear of misandry? (opposite of misogynism)

NCmountainwoman said...

If they were in the South, they would have added, "bless her heart." Such a shameful comment for anyone, much less for someone so successful. I enjoyed Thorn Birds. When it was published I was younger and newly married to a Catholic. Not so sure I would like it now but I might just buy a copy in Colleen's honor.

Jim Egerton said...

It's not about appearances or stylish look. It's about the person and how and what she did. Obviously she was successful and a good writer. Ms McCullough has a great smile and a twinkle in her eye. She attracts me!

Sam said...

Those frank words reminded me of the obituary of my grandfather, Rev. Clarence Craig, in The Pickens (SC) Sentinel on July 27, 1922:
"By some, Mr. Craig was considered peculiar, but those who knew him well knew that there were no better men than Clarence Craig."

He was killed by lightning while plowing fields along Keowee River behind a mule. My father, second-youngest of seven children, was five.

Kath Marsh said...

I don't know that I've ever seen anyone smile with their whole face, like McCullough. What a gift! There's depth in that there woman!

Frances said...

I completely agree with you Vicki, about appearances, and Richard Chamberlain, too. There's some link between those topics, but I will leave the dot connecting to others.

xo

Darla said...

Our society is obsessed by appearance, isn't it? Doesn't much matter to me, and certainly has nothing to do with whether a person is "successful" or not, which is another societal judgment.

I enjoyed your juxtaposition of those two authors. As different in their writing styles as in their appearances, yet both wrote books read around the globe. Writers are a curious bunch!

In my early 20s, addicted to romance, I read as many of Cartland's books I could get my hands on. Funny what we're drawn to at different points in life; can't imagine now what I saw in all those "bodice-rippers!" Ugh. ;-)

Deanna said...

I enjoyed Thorn Birds and admit I had a much difference image of the author than reality, not that it matters. That obit was so out of line but I don't believe Coleen cares one bit!

Vicki Lane said...

I love all of your comments and have added THE THORN BIRDS to my Kindle.

One thing I love about the Internet is that we can get to know people by their words and need never know what they look like.

Sam -- I love the obituary for your grandfather!

Carolyn said...

I was appalled by that obituary. They would never have led a successful male author's obit that way, nor would have even mentioned his appearance anywhere, unless he had a disability that made him remarkable, like Stephen Hawking. AND she was a scientist! However, I must say Colleen looked like she didn't care a whit. I did read The Thorn Birds when it came out in paperback and loved it. Richard Chamberlain, not so much.