13 February 2009

What I'm reading now...

So at Wi4 I picked up a lot of galleys, both for myself and for my colleagues. I mean a LOT of galleys. Enough that I filled an empty suitcase full of 'em, packed up a box to ship back, and still had a few that wouldn't fit and thus got left behind in my hotel room. The hard part about going to Wi4 is actually ranking the books: which ones to be read immediately, which ones to stack in my windowsill, which ones to go on my nightstand, which ones to stay downstairs in the kitchen, which ones get stacked in the front hallway, which ones to stick in my car, which ones to leave in the bathroom...you get the idea.

One galley stuck out for a few reasons, among them the bright yellow cover and how likable the author seemed at the reception when he signed my book and mentioned that Mt. Holyoke College, the campus across the street from where I work, makes a cameo appearance in his novel. This book was hilarious! For Steve Hely, there's nothing sacred in the publishing world. How I Became a Famous Novelist is about this guy named Pete Tarslaw who wants to write a best selling novel in order to impress an ex-girlfriend who has just announced that she's getting married. By doing field research at a Barnes & Noble he concludes that his book must follow certain formulae to become a bestseller. And that in order to reach the largest possible audience his book must include "murder, secrets, mysterious missions, characters whose lives change suddenly, women who've given up on love but turn out to be beautiful...descriptions of delicious meals," and characters of "unusual racial backgrounds [who will] garner at least pretend interest from all readers." What ensues is a total send up of the publishing industry, more-serious-than-thou novelists, self-help DIYers (not a redundancy, apparently), memoirists, and even readers. It's fun, it's clever, it's tongue-in-cheek, it's snarky. It's also a paperback original from Black Cat books (part of Grove Atlantic) due in July, so it will be a great summer vacation read.

There's something else that impressed me about this book: Mark Twain was referred to throughout the book as "Mark Twain." This might not seem like a big deal, but to me it is. You see, Mark Twain is a pseudonym for Samuel Clemens and thus should never be referred to as simply Twain. Kinda like how Leonardo da Vinci should only be shortened to "Leonardo" and never to "da Vinci", but thanks to Dan Brown and his editors, millions of people will now never know the difference. Anyway, most writers and even many editors these days wouldn't catch that mistake, so I was quite pleased to see the Mark Twain thing done properly. Even if the author did use the newfangled definition of "namesake" instead of using "eponym."

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