Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How I Became a Famous Novelist: I know you are, but what am I?

Peter Tarslaw is a professional deadbeat who overachieves only in the area of expressing his disdain toward things. Although he read constantly when he was young, TV not being an option in his house, he decided to stop altogether after college, when his mom gave him a copy of one of those books at the end of which “you’re supposed to feel weirdly sad, and perhaps cry, but not for any clear reason.” YOU know the ones.

But now he’s been laid off from his cushy job writing other people’s college admission essays, and he has to find a new way to make a living without doing anything very taxing. When he sees a televised interview with the filthy-rich and platitudinous author of the latest must-read literary fiction novel, it dawns on him that all these famous authors are just manipulating the masses and there’s a simple formula for writing a best-selling book. If he can crack it, he can join the ranks of the literary elite.

How hard could it be?

His goal in all this, aside from becoming rich and famous in just a few easy steps so he doesn't have to work anymore, is to show up at his college girlfriend’s wedding and be so awesome that he essentially ruins her day and also her happiness forever. And she deserves this because . . .
Polly Pawson was cheating on me. With the LSAT. That whole time she was secretly working on her law school applications. Those times when she told me she was taking a second nap—a second nap! Think of how I loved her!—she was working.
Peter Tarslaw is not a nice man.

But even though he’s immensely unlikable and makes you watch as he pokes fun at everything you hold dear—publishing houses, F. Scott Fitzgerald, book blogging, readers in general, my job in particular ("My friend Lucy told me to get a job like hers. She became an assistant at Ortolan Press in Manhattan. But I knew they’d find some twisted assignment like making me edit textbooks.")—you’re somehow still rooting for him. I mean, you don’t want him to ruin Polly’s wedding, but you want him not to self-destruct too magnificently.

And you kind of do want to see him beat those hoity-toity authors at their own game, just a little bit. Plus, it's really fun when high-profile authors get together and argue about who's more pretentious.

Thanks for sending me this book, Alice! I will treasure it always.


  1. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. And now I want to re-read it.

  2. I read this book ages ago now and barely remember it, other than it was SUPAH FUNNY. I seem to recall Pete as more of a hapless, self-involved individual rather than deliberately cruel, though.

  3. He IS more hapless and self-involved than cruel, except that he totally wants to ruin Polly's wedding. He fantasizes about it...it gets ugly.

  4. Ugh--I totally blocked that part out of my memory. Boo to him!

  5. I read this a billion years ago (or like 3, but that's a billion in internet time) and yeah, you have made me want to re-read this