supposed memoir of a young writer who conned the literary
establishment, How I Became a Famous
Novelist is hilarious and
incisive. Comic writer Steve Hely's satire spares nothing in
literary world: authors, publishers, literary journals, critics, TV
hosts, MFA programs, writing workshops, and especially readers who soak
Protagonist Pete Tarslaw, still pining two years after graduation for the college girlfriend who dumped him, earns his keep by writing college application essays for students with meager English skills. After seeing a TV interview with a best-selling novelist he considers a maudlin con artist, Pete decides to put his own talent for fabrication to self-serving use: He’ll write a best-selling novel and upstage his lost love at her wedding.
Pete’s formula for success is to study the ingredients in best-sellers and include those in his book (among them: a murder, a club, secrets/mysterious missions, shy characters, characters whose lives are changed suddenly, surprising love affairs, women who’ve given up on love but turn out to be beautiful, confusing sadness at the end, scenes on highways, delicious meals, music, obscure exotic locations, plant names). The resulting mishmash, The Tornado Ashes Club, does indeed climb best-seller lists, sending Pete off on author’s tours and TV interviews. His eventual disclosure of the scam even increases the book’s sales.
An alumnus of the staffs of The Harvard Lampoon and The Late Show with David Letterman, Hely is adept at satire, but the ending, a sweet note for people who still care about good writing, is a pleasant surprise after all the biting wit.
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