Photos of Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami, J.D. Salinger, and Virginia Woolf As Youngsters


Ah, the Buz­zfeed lis­ti­cle. Gawk­er’s Tom Scoc­ca recent­ly described the dread­ed online pub­lish­ing phe­nom as “aggres­sive­ly designed to ‘go viral’ with­in a spe­cif­ic micro­tar­get­ed pop­u­la­tion and to be worth­less to every oth­er read­er on the plan­et.” Maybe some­thing of an exag­ger­a­tion. Then again, it seems that “17 Things Bears Are Bet­ter at Than You” may reach a minor con­tin­gent of read­ers, and “7 Fan­tas­tic Needle­point Fash­ion Mag­a­zine Cov­ers” may indeed have lim­it­ed appeal. Of course, the lis­ti­cle pre­cedes the inter­net, and dri­ves con­tent beyond Buz­zfeed. A sta­ple of Cos­mo, it’s always been a nar­row form, except when it comes to such irre­sistible click­bait as “before they were famous” lists, such as this selec­tion of awk­ward pho­tos of TV per­son­al­i­ties.


But some­times even Buz­zfeed takes the high road. A recent spread, for instance, show­cased 24 pho­tos of famous authors as young, anony­mous men and women. Take, for exam­ple, the pic at the top of a teenage Toni Mor­ri­son (then Chloe Wof­ford) from 1949. Tak­en at Ohio’s Lor­raine High School, we see senior class trea­sur­er Mor­ri­son posed with seri­ous intent, gaz­ing at some sort of mag­a­zine with three of her class­mates. Buz­zfeed pil­fered this pho­to from anoth­er lit­er­ary lis­ti­cle, Fla­vor­wire’s “20 Famous Authors’ Adorable School Pho­tos.” Not a Mor­ri­son fan? No wor­ries. You may be enlight­ened or amused by the pho­to above, of a young Haru­ki Muraka­mi, work­ing in his Tokyo jazz bar, the Peter Cat, before writ­ing his first nov­el, Hear the Wind Sing, in 1979.


Then we have the famous recluse J.D. Salinger above, from his 1936 year­book pho­to from Val­ley Forge Mil­i­tary Acad­e­my. We learn that the future Fran­ny and Zooey author was a cor­po­ral who put in time in the glee club, the avi­a­tion and French clubs, and served as the lit­er­ary edi­tor for the year­book (called Crossed Sabres.) A copy of the year­book, signed by Salinger, went up for auc­tion last year for $2,400. Also from the Buz­zfeed list, below, (and also lift­ed from Fla­vor­wire), we have the ten­der por­trait of a 14-year-old Vir­ginia Woolf (nee Stephen—on the right), cir­ca 1896, posed with her sis­ters Stel­la and Vanes­sa (left and cen­ter).


There are sev­er­al more pho­tos float­ing around out there of famous authors as awk­ward or very intense young men and women.  They may not give us the same thrill as see­ing the lat­est hot young thing as an acne-plagued goof­ball with braces, but they pro­vide us with visu­al win­dows on the stages of our favorite writ­ers’ devel­op­ment as real peo­ple in real life.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Author Flan­nery O’Connor Cap­tured on Film at Age 5, with Her Chick­ens

Writ­ers’ Hous­es Gives You a Vir­tu­al Tour of Famous Authors’ Homes

Pho­tos of Famous Writ­ers (and Rock­ers) with their Dogs

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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