Shirtless Writers

A friend shared an article from Open Culture about a shirtless Mark Twain, complete with a bonus link to a gallery of a shirtless Hemingway. Aside from providing these for your viewing pleasure (?), I’ll just point out a few things from the article itself.

1. Note how the article discusses how consciously Twain constructed his public image. Given current technology and current technological practices, that seems both easier and harder for writers today. It is easier in that a writer can reach the public directly with minimal effort. It is harder in that a writer’s every comment (whether thought through or not) has the possibility of being passed around (think viral kerfuffle).

2. Also note that Twain’s public image of the white suit came from a photograph taken when he was testifying before a Congressional committee about copyright in 1906. This would have been a very important time. The then applicable copyright statute was over one hundred years old and in the process of being rewritten.* Three years later, we got the Copyright Act of 1909, which governed until the the Copyright Act of 1976 became effective on January 1, 1978. The multi-year process for passing the act should not be a surprise. The 1976 act was under discussion for more than a decade before finally passing. The influence that prominent writers can bring to bear should not be surprising either. Testimony of authors and artists before Congressional committees is not uncommon.

3. I refuse to be dragged into a discussion of whether New York Times Bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson removed his shirt on a panel at DragonCon last year.

* Major revisions were enacted in 1831 and 1870. Each year between the 1790 Act and the end of Nineteenth Century, an average of two copyright bills were introduced in Congress.

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