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Portrait of the Writer: Literary Lives in Focus

What’s the secret behind the best photographs of novelists, asks Jacob Mikanowski

By Jacob Mikanowski  

William Buroughs in front of his “shotgun paintings.”

What do we want from pictures of writers? More than we’re willing to admit. That, at least, was the conclusion I came to after reading Portrait of the Writer, which gathers some 250 portraits of writers and pairs them with capsule biographies by Goffredo Fofi and six other contributors in the hopes of discovering “something previously unrevealed” about them. But what it mostly provides is either the familiar—what Hemingway looked like, how Camus held a cigarette—or the banal, like the size of…

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