Sunday, February 22, 2004

on being seen (not)

"It's kind of true, you do disappear off the planet if you are a middle-aged woman," says Keaton. "But that has some advantages as well. Because too much of my life was spent waiting to be seen. Hoping to be seen, hoping to be picked. Once you realise that you aren't looked at that way any more, other things start to happen, and you have to depend on other things to get by."

- interview with Diane Keaton, The Weekend Australian, 21-22 Feb 2004, Review, p. 4-5


"The dream of being invisible ... When I find myself in an environment where I can enjoy the illusion of being invisible, I am really happy.

The exact opposite of how I feel when I have to talk on the television, and I feel the camera pointing at me, nailing me to my visibility, to my face. I believe that writers lose a lot when they are seen in the flesh. In the old days the really popular writers were totally anonymous, just a name on the book cover, and this gave them an extraordinary mystique ... I believe this is the ideal condition for a writer, close to anonymity: that is when his maximum authority develops, when the writer does not have a face, a presence, but the world he portrays takes up the whole picture. ... Today, ... the more the author's figure invades the field, the more the world he portrays empties; then the author himelf fades, and one is left with a void on all sides."

- Italo Calvino, Hermit in Paris (trans Martin McLaughlin)

Of course, there is a gender difference. Some women writers of the past, famously, had to take male pseudonyms so they could be read, ie 'seen' - because written texts are seen. And the writer cannot escape being 'the author', out of which an 'image' (in the general publicity sense) is made.

But that this either inevitable (in Keaton's case) or wished for (in Calvino's) is interesting. OK, it's comparing actors with writers - and actors, until certain CGI techniques get a whole lot better, need to be seen (in some sense).

What would happen if we all published anonymously? Like the very famous 'anon'. Or wouldn't it ever happen?




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