Hot Authors Have a Way With Words, Are Also Really Hot

I’d like to start with this picture of Michelle Tea:

Photographed by BJ & Richeille Formento

I know! This is part of Canteen’s Hot Authors series, for Issue Seven of their magazine. Their premise? Writing is sexy. Writers are sexy. Why don’t we treat them the way we treat other sexy people?

Writers have lost their place as cultural heroes. Instead, we celebrate a numbing parade of overpaid and undertalented actors, musicians, and athletes. Ridiculous amounts of money, publication real estate, and TV time are squandered to promote The Bachelors and the Kardashians and whoever will soon rise vapidly to take their place. Writers don’t traditionally get such crass and ubiquitous promotion. But why can’t they at least try to compete with pop-culture stars on the same terms? Let’s promote novelists as sexy and fabulous! Insist that the PEN Award require a turn on the catwalk! Hold the National Book Awards on a sliver of sand populated by buxom models in horn-rimmed shades; let the champagne pop for the cameras, as Oxford tweed gets wet on Temptation Island!

It’s definitely possible (and sort of fun!) to debate whether talking about writers in terms of their physical appearance is really elevating them to a status they deserve or whether it’s negative attention that writers should be glad they can (at least sometimes) avoid. (Minus the soft-focus cleavage-y jacket photo that female authors are so often blessed with.) But also fun is looking at photos of pretty people and talking about books! Current authors featured on Canteen’s site include Michelle Tea (!!!), Tao Lin, and someone named Porochista Khakpour whom I’ve honestly never heard of but is cute as hell and I think you would really like based on her answer to “what’s the hottest thing you’ve ever read?” There are more authors coming up soon, including one whose book I am coincidentally in the middle of right now, shoutout Rivka Galchen!

I can’t really decide why I’m so into this — looking at mildly to extremely sexy photos of people on the internet has been around for as long as the internet has. But those of us for whom writers are the epitome of smoldering attractiveness, and whose first unrealized fantasy crushes were in YA books instead of 90210, this is like the world finally looking like the inside of our heads already do. And because really that’s the question I secretly always want to ask everyone: what’s the hottest thing you’ve ever read?

What authors do you wanna see making sexy eyes at you? Who would you put in your Hot Authors issue? What’s the hottest thing you’ve ever read?


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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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  1. The hottest book I’ve ever read is, easily, Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman. It’s about gay men, so it might not be up everyone’s alley here, but oh my god it is so hot. (And it’s a really great book for other reasons, too).

    Re: the series’s mission statement–I kind of felt like I should be offended, but then I found the idea of “buxom models in horn-rimmed shades” handing out the National Book Awards too funny to really get worked up…

  2. 1. Anais Nin was my go-to for racy material in high school. 2. “My Secret Garden” by Nancy Friday is another classic- it’s a collection of women’s sexual fantasies.
    3. Isabel Allende is an incredible story teller and has a lot of sexy-times in her books.
    4. Y the last man is a comic book, but has some good girl on girl action in it. In fact, there is a trade entitled “Girl on Girl.” A really good series all around.
    I can’t wait to check out some of the recommendations you guys come up with. Does anyone else think that Elizabeth Gilbert is kind of a babe in an older-ish lady way? I’ve never read her books, but I saw her on “This Emotional Life” and I was like “day-um.”

  3. I want to see Kate Beaton draw a series of ‘Hot Authors’ where classic authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Shakespeare are drawn in a pin-up style. WHAT? AM I THE ONLY WHOSE MIND WENT THERE? IT’D BE HILARIOUS AND YOU KNOW IT.

  4. I AM WRITING MY THESIS ON MARGUERITE DURAS. I love to hear other people have read her work!

    In my opinion, if you wanted it, which you probably didn’t, but the hottest of her novels is Les yeux bleus cheveux noirs because it’s, um, an entire novel about a woman moving her naked body underneath a piece of black silk. *swoon*

  5. May I remind you all on what someone told me on proof-reading my next novel? Apparently it has too much erotica in it. Makes me wonder: is there such a thing as too much erotica?
    Not in my book there isn’t (no pun etcetera).

    I’d love to hear your views on this.

  6. Zadie Smith is hot. Actually, Zadie Smith is so attractive it’s ridiculous, I’m going to have to google image Zadie Smith now.

    On a slightly more miserable note, I’ve just finished reading Richard Yates by Tao Lin and god it was bad, when I was done I felt like punching the actual book, that’s how bad it was.

      • Yes White Teeth is perfect! I hear there was an adaptation of it made a little while ago, but I never got around to seeing it, which is a shame.

        I also really, really love the collection of short stories she put together a few years ago, The Book of Other People.

    • Yes, can we talk about this, _Richard Yates_? Because I know some folks around here seemed to love it and I did intense battle with this book, trying to figure out whether the fact that I largely hated it meant that I was simply an inferior being. (I mean, I’m pretty sure that’s what Tao Lin would say.) For me the problem starts with: he’s made it clear enough that the book’s story is pretty much lifted from his life, and his character is just so thoroughly hateful. And I don’t think the fact that he’s snipped this portion of his life out for us to read is reflection/redemption enough — I think the strongest takeaway we could get is something along the lines of, “So that’s how I was during that time. Huh.” I mean, I don’t need Major Life Lessons from my literature, but I do need some inkling of a worldview at work that I don’t find utterly repellant.

      • I was left with a similar sort of feeling from Richard Yates as I was after reading Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero, like all the people in the world are sick and empty, but the difference is that Less Than Zero is beautiful and poignant and it wants something else from it’s characters. I know that what Tao Lin was trying to say was, this is how life is these days, we can only communicate through technology and even that is stunted and dry and means nothing and intimacy means nothing and love means nothing. He called them Haley Joel Osment and Dakota Fanning and I get it, he doesn’t want us to connect to the characters because in their world no one can connect to anything, so he gives them these stupidly familiar chid star names (in full, every time) to keep us from connecting – but the end result of all that is just a really unenjoyable read.

    • So true, re: Highsmith. Also, young Sontag. Also, I feel that Highsmith’s lesbian novel (The Price of Salt) does not get enough attention? Actually quite good, and with a non-tragic ending, bizarrely enough for its time! It doesn’t make the rounds of the usual lists quite as much, but very worth reading.

      • The Price of Salt was taught in my Gay Love in Lit course and it was the first time I encountered it. It was easily my fav book of the entire course (mostly cos the course focused on more of a gay male perspective but eh).

  7. I was JUST talking to my girlfriend about how cute I think Virginia Woolf was, and she, smart as always, was relaying how part of the reason she was able to get the audience she did, and continue to be the writer she was in her time, was in part due to her physical beauty – Every day pretty people get special treatment and I’m glad to talk about hot authors and also to see what we find hot, right? Like people’s writing can totally enhance the sexiness of the person writing it! Give her tattoos and as someone said above, panties officially ruined!

    • Virginia Woolf was my first crush. Actually no, that’s a lie, Sylvia Plath was but then I realised I could do better.

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