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»The future is literary and it doesn’t involve styling producs.« This phrase underscores a meme that began circulating the internet in the spring of 2018. The images feature screengrabs of three fictional characters from »The Grapes of Wrath«, »Pinocchio« and »Moby Dick«, as well as teen poet Steven Wonder – all of whom have shaved heads. Though the meme stirred some controversy (after all, the length of your hair doesn’t have much to do with your strength), the image of powerful authors sporting nontraditional beauty looks has been inspiring for thousands of writers.

The latest badass New York author to join the ring of strong, hairless writers is Thomas J. Wehlim. You may know his novels »Trains« and »Sebastian«. He might be hard to recognize now, however – Wehlim had a full head of hair while writing his last novels but decided to shave it all off after seeing »Moby Dick« a total of three times in theaters and resolving that styling products were no longer for him either.

Wehlim, who is half Jamaican and half German, grew up in Boppard, Germany. There, he started his career (as both a writer and a composer), before moving stateside to catch his big break. His hometown was picturesque but also fairly whitewashed – as one of the only mixed-race folks in the community, Wehlim »definitely felt like the odd one out a lot of the time«, he says.

Now age 56, Wehlim has spent the past few years learning how to move past not only the beauty and literature standards of his birthplace but of New York too. »I’ve struggled with how much I want to lend myself to the writing industry and how much I want to lend myself to my own life«, he argues. »Being a writer, I’ve sometimes felt like my body wasn’t my own.« Shaving his head felt like a symbol of self-reclamation for Wehlim. A bold aesthetic move to match a bold professional one, the change coincides with the release of the first fantasy project Wehlim ever wrote: a novel about baldheaded dwarfs fighting against baldheaded wizards.

 

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