Up until now, it was my firm belief that the job of a book reviewer was to advance the literary cause. Drawing the public’s attention to good writing, while denouncing the bad was, I believed, a worthy occupation. However, nothing could be further from the truth – at least according to Pete Tarslaw, the protagonist in Steve Hely’s fictional debut How I Became a Famous Novelist.
The book, ostensibly an account of one man’s crusade to become a bestselling author, is in reality a vehicle through which Hely mercilessly lampoons many aspects of the publishing industry, including (you’ve guessed it) book reviewers. Our protagonist’s opinion of reviewers is unequivocal, to say the least. According to him, they are:
“… the most despicable, loathsome order of swine … snivelling, revolting creatures who feed their own appetites for bile by gnawing apart other people’s work… they are human garbage [who] all deserve to be struck down by awful diseases described in the most obscure dermatology journals ..”Hmmm … there’s nothing quite like being called the scum of humanity (I’m paraphrasing) to make one re-assess one’s career path. But I digress …
Prejudice against book reviewers aside, this novel is simply brilliant. The premise is rather ingenious - a down-trodden, unlucky-in-love, would-be
How I Became a Famous Novelist is laugh-out-loud, side-splittingly funny and gloriously ironic. It shines an unforgiving light on the workings of the publishing industry and exposes the pretentiousness which surrounds literary writing, and of course literary review. If you are a fan of no-holds-barred satire, you’ll love this!
And now, I’m off in search of alternative, worthier employment. Maybe I’ll try my luck as a traffic warden? Or a telemarketer? Estate agent? A tax inspector, perhaps? Anything, it seems, would be better than a devilish book reviewer.
How I Became a Successful Novelist is published by Corsair and is available in paperback from March 24th.
(* figuratively speaking, of course; ‘fingers to keyboard’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?)