Wednesday, August 20, 2014

#38 [2014/CBR6] "How I Became A Famous Novelist" by Steve Hely

"Writing a novel is pathetic and boring. Anyone sensible hates it. It's all you can do to not play Snood all afternoon." (100)

How I Became A Famous Novelist (2009) by Steve Hely is a fun satire about the publishing industry and the kinds of books that receive the most acclaim. The main character, Pete Tarslaw, is in his early twenties, out of college and without motivation or direction. In fact, he reminded me a lot of Rob Fleming in High Fidelity. Still hung up on his ex-girlfriend, he makes something of a living by writing essays for college and graduate school applications. "If I could have stayed in college forever, everything would've been fine." (15) He hits his nadir when he is laid off and invited to the wedding of his ex-girlfriend. Determined to show up at the wedding as a success, and with nothing else to do, he undertakes writing a novel with all of the determination of those hungry for undeserved fame and fortune.

As Hely gains success, the book became a little less relatable, but continued to be entertaining. Pete Tarslow sees firsthand the luck involved in having a book published, let alone the stars that have to align to become successful. He uses his success for his benefit and goes to the wedding with hilarious effect. The novel continues, and although I enjoyed the first half more than the second half, it came to a satisfying conclusion.

This was probably the perfect book for me to read after the serious bleakness of Nothing to Envy. It was light, funny, and entertaining. I could relate to Tarslow's feelings of aimlessness after college, as well as the challenges of trying to write a novel. Scattered throughout are short "excerpts" from various bestselling books--satires of various styles of books that gain acclaim and respect. The book is filled with jokes and I laughed out loud more than once. It tears down the sacredness of novel writing from the beginning to the end of the process, only to build it back up at the conclusion. It might not be for everyone, but I would certainly recommend it.

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