Monday, 21 March 2011

How To Become a Famous Novelist

As regular followers will attest, I am quite fond of writing the odd book review. In fact, truth be told, this blog has seen more than its fair share of them … but no more, dear readers! This reviewer has finally seen the error of her ways. The following will be the last book review I will ever write… and even as I put pen to paper* to compose this final dispatch, I do so with a heart heavy with shame and regret.

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
writer is eking out a miserable existence in a dead-end job when he is struck by a proverbial thunderbolt. Suddenly recognising the fundamental spuriousness of the publishing industry, our hero comes to the conclusion that the business of writing and publishing is nothing more than a complex exercise in deception. Convinced that bestselling authors are simply con artists who make a substantial living by manipulating the emotions of the reading public, Pete undertakes an elaborate counter-con … using his new-found insight, he sets about writing his own bestseller with hilarious results.

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?)

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