Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

The Image That Steals the Soul

Madison Smartt Bell considers the nature of celebrity and the role of the writer

December 9, 2011 In an essay for The Huffington Post, Nashville native Madison Smartt Bell recalls an incident in a French bistro that made him consider what it means to be a writer in an age when every reader, or potential reader, has a search engine in his pocket. When some Frenchmen Bell didn’t know Googled him as he stood before them, the novelist was a bit unnerved:

I grew up when the writer as respected public figure (Hemingway, Mailer, Nadine Gordimer) was still, if distantly, on the scene. These people had a sort of gravitas that compelled you to listen to what they had to say about subjects other than literature. That changed when I was publishing my own first books in the eighties; the new famous writers (Jay McInerney, Tama Janowitz) were now pure celebrities, famous purely for being famous. More recently, the various self-exposure mechanisms of the internet have made the Warholian fifteen minutes (and sometimes more!) available to anyone who cares.

To read Bell’s take on the culture of celebrity, especially as it affects writers, click here.