How I Became A Famous Novelist
by Kevin Wilder
How I Became A Famous Novelist was pretty damn funny. A while back I heard an NPR interview where the author, Steve Hely, talked to Terry Gross about his first novel. I don’t expect what I say will do it justice, so I’ll start with the jacket description:
What Pete Tarslaw wants is simple enough: a realistic amount of fame that will open new avenues of sexual opportunity; the kind of financial comfort that will allow him to spend his life pursuing hobbies such as boating or skeet shooting at his stately home by the ocean or a scenic lake; and perhaps mostly importantly the chance to humiliate his ex-girlfriend at her wedding. This is the story of how he succeeds in getting it all, and what it costs him in the end.
Pete Tarslaw wants to be a famous author. He prefers commerce over art and comes up with the perfect formula for what makes book sell. Excerpts from his resulting novel, The Tornado Ashes Club, are hysterical, as are his run-ins with (fictional) famous authors. The sardonically witty Hely—probably himself unable to decide if literary and popular fiction are separate entities—somehow manages to sum up the entire book publishing industry. Mark my word: anyone interested in books will find something great here.
I’ll end with a quote from this penultimate pick:
“Writing a novel — actually picking the words and filling in paragraphs — is a tremendous pain in the ass. Now that TV’s so good and the Internet is an endless forest of distraction, it’s damn near impossible. That should be taken into account when ranking the all-time greats. Somebody like Charles Dickens, for example, who had nothing to do except eat mutton and attend public hangings, should get very little credit.”