Too Young, Too Pretty: When Authors Are Criticized For Their Looks

This week, Nell Freudenberger’s second novel, The Newlyweds hit shelves, and we’d say we’re pretty excited. The book itself is great, but the reappearance of the author reminded us of her past as a new kid on the block, part of that cyclical surge of young, attractive authors that always seem to take a lot of heat, especially from critics and other writers. After all, it’s not every author who is judged in the headlines to be “too young, too pretty, too successful,” but we like to think that with her newest novel, Freudenberger has pushed past that stigma to be taken a bit more seriously, and perhaps enjoyed with a little less jealousy. Others of her good looking brethren have done the same — or have fallen off the face of the planet. Click through to see our round up of a few authors that have been criticized, ridiculed, or simply condescended to for their looks or age, and how they’ve fared since. And no, we’re not going to get into the whole Franzen/Wharton thing.

Nell Freudenberger

In a 2003 backhanded-compliment-filled Salon article entitled “Too young, too pretty, too successful,” critic Curtis Sittenfeld expressed the all-too typical kind of rage-jealousy that gets directed at young, attractive authors, admitting that he and his friends hated her for things like her first author photo in The New Yorker (“it would be overstating it, but not by much, to say that you could see down her shirt”) and her choice to turn down a large book deal for a smaller one (“Meaning she was, like, virtuous and un-greedy on top of everything else — it was sickening!”). But really, it’s the fact that she’s good looking, “thought not to have paid her dues,” a Harvard grad, and supposedly talentless. Except that last part isn’t really true. And yeah, we’re jealous too, but we’re also glad to see that Freudenberger wasn’t a single, sexy flash in the pan, and that it’s looking like she’ll have a long career ahead of her.