Sad news about author Olivia Goldsmith, in critical condition after reacting badly to the anesthesia she was given during plastic surgery.

Goldsmith is the author of the delicious THE FIRST WIVES CLUB and half a dozen other lighthearted novels of women who survive bad treatment and achieve over-the-top revenge, including YOUNG WIVES and THE BESTSELLER. According to the Times, she went under the knife to have loose skin under her chin tightened.

I'm sorry that this has happened to her. And I'm sorry she felt the need for the operation in the first place.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- Sebastian Junger and Candace Bushnell notwithstanding, writers are not meant to be the world's beautiful people. There are plenty of models and actresses whose fortunes depend on their forms and faces. Let them subsist on celery sticks and breath mints, and get their parts plumped up or pared down or lifted. Writers, who work in solitude, and who only have to confront an actual audience for maybe a week or two each year -- and that's if they're especially prolific, and their publisher is unusually generous in terms of a tour, and the media's even interested -- shouldn't have to conform to the same standards. We should be permitted -- nay, encouraged -- to go gracefully into that good night, with all of the wrinkles, stretch marks, love handles and chin flab that God gave us.

I worry that by succumbing to the lure of the nip and tuck -- which was, of course, her choice to make -- Goldsmith has inadvertantly wound up reinforcing the rising and pernicious notion that a writer's looks ought to matter, and that if you're not thin, young and beautiful -- or at least two out of three -- your book will languish on the shelves, unpromoted -- if it even gets published in the first place.

That idea's bad for the business of publishing. And it's a bad notion to put out into a world where the bar for everyone keeps being set higher and higher, thinner and thinner, prettier and prettier, where talent alone isn't enough -- you have to be talented, young, and beautiful, too.

Jen