Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Review: How I Became A Famous Novelist, by Steve Hely

The other day I started (and finished, which tells you how both how good and how fast of a read it is) How I Became A Famous Novelist, by Steve Hely. It's highly critical both of the publishing industry's bestsellers (see the novel's version of the New York Times bestsellers list below) as well as the "literary fiction" genre.

The story follows Pete Tarlow in his quest to become a rich-and-famous novelist in order to show up his ex-girlfriend at her wedding. (He's obviously not a stand-up citizen, but he is extremely entertaining.) Tarlow outlines what a book must have to become popular (which includes food, road trips, and WWII) and then proceeds to write a novel while under the influence of a drug designed to treat ADHD. (He observes that "literary fiction" is much less work than a "thriller," although he offers an excellent plot for a thriller if anyone would like to contact him to take it up.)

His observations of the publishing industry are hilarious and right-on, especially for anyone who has ever thought "My God, another Dan Brown/John Grisham/Danielle Steel/etc. novel?" Pete's descent into complete cynicism has a price (as it always does), and while the ending is a bit contrived, that's really only to be expected from a book created in today's publishing atmosphere. (For those who are interested, here's a link to a pdf version of the whole NYT bestsellers list.)

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