iSteve commenter Thursday writes:
I’ve looked at all the fiction writers in Harold Bloom’s Western Canon list and evaluated them based on looks. I have not looked at anyone before the 1700s, because portraits were not terribly common before then.
I’ve tried to judge based on pictures from their early 20s, if possible. It’s unfair to judge a woman’s looks after she’s turned into an old crone. Furthermore, substance abuse has not uncommonly taken a toll on some of these.
Evaluations like this are subjective, but a few quibbles aside, I think this gives a fair picture.
The plurality tends towards the average and below average, with the below average having a slight edge. A non trivial number can be called cute. None of them can truly be called hot.
Above average – Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Shelley, Maguerite Duras, Edna O’Brien, Miles Franklin, Katherine Mansfield, Katherine Anne Porter, Ursula LeGuin.
Average – Fanny Burney, the Brontes, Sarah Orne Jewett, Colette, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, Iris Murdoch, Jeanette Winterson, Isak Dinesen, Sigrid Undset, Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Christina Stead, Edith Wharton, Ellen Glasgow, Flannery O’Connor, Toni Morrison.
Below average – George Eliot, George Sand, Louisa May Alcott, Kate Chopin, Natalia Ginzburg, Nathalie Sarraute, Marguerite Yourcenar, Christa Wolf, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Willa Cather, Gertrude Stein, Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty, Kay Boyle, Carson McCullers, Gloria Naylor, Grace Paley, Cynthia Ozick.
The average professional writer, female or male, probably comes from the upper middle class, which, I would imagine, conveys some small advantage in looks on average.
For example, sci-fi writer Ursula K. Le Guin, who died last year at age 88, was the daughter of the famous early 20th Century anthropologist Alfred Kroeber (1875-1960), who in 1911 took in Ishi, the last surviving Indian of his Northern California tribe. This doesn’t have anything to do with Thursday’s point, but I think it’s pretty interesting.