To peek or not to peek?

I’m writing today about the phenomenon of author’s pictures in books. Some books have them, some do not. Most commonly if there is one, the headshot will be nestled on the inside cover at the end of the book.

Why do I care about this? Good question. It might seem a rather innocuous subject at first glance but the truth is, the decision to cast one’s eyes over a book’s author before you read said book is a critical one with potentially far reaching consequences.

An example. I am reading a  book at the moment and a few nights ago, in a fleeting moment of sheer bravado and impulsiveness, I found myself flicking to the back cover to check out the face of the man from whose mind the words I had been reading came. 

Fortunately the smiling face looking back at me was bland, inoffensive and wholly unremarkable. But let’s not beat about the bush here. If for example, I had turned to a black and white side on photo of a smouldering middle-ager with one too many buttons undone on his shirt, the whole feel of the book would be turned on its head. During key moments, I would not be able to get his almost certainly smarmy and self satisfied expression in certain moments out of my head. Or if I glimpsed a beady eyed woman with a smile so disingenuous and poisonous that I felt like clapping the cover down upon her face, I would be forced to continue reading dialogue in her imagined whine.

To be clear, this is my problem. I’m one of those people that avoid watching TV shows or films based upon books close to my heart for fear of forever disturbing and altering irreperably the imagined status quo built up within my mind. It stands to reason therefore that I should also prefer the generic unspoilt prose of a book without any additonal preconceptions of the person sitting there writing it down on a laptop or a pad. When I’m reading a book, rather than perceiving it via the imagined voice of its narrator or its architect, I prefer my guide through the text to be incognito. 

My only advice is that, should you ever consider risking a peek in the future, you must consider the pitfalls and consequences. To visualise an author is a dangerous thing.

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