Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rating books that don't exist

I normally don’t do this, but I feel comfortable recommending Steve Hely’s How I Became a Famous Novelist without having read it.

It chronicles the travails of Pete Tarslaw, a committed hack, who decides to write a sure-fire hit — artistic integrity be damned.

He studies and apes the best-seller list, hoping to create his own critically despised commercial success.

But the fun is watching Hely concoct fake names and tag lines for nonexistent best-sellers.

Some of Hely’s contrived book names sound terrifyingly plausible:

The Jane Austen Women’s Investigators Club
Indict to Unnerve
Cumin: The Spice that Changed the World
Cap’n Jay & Us
. (The titular Cap’n Jay is a “mischievous squirrel.”)

Hely has taken it a step farther and written 11 short takes on books that don’t exist for The Believer magazine.

My favorite is Hely’s review of Kimball MacAleese’s The Men who Pour Cement:

MacAleese is the great also-ran of twentieth-century American letters, behind his contemporaries Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway—whom he once challenged to “write about your own g-damn country, and let the matadors and the spaghetti-eaters write about theirs.”

In a completely unrelated note, Oxford University Press is publishing the world’s biggest thesaurus after 40 years of work.

The thesaurus was almost finished in 1980, but the production team decided to add all the words in the updated version of the Oxford English Dictionary.

That suggestion added another 30 years of work. I can only imagine how unpopular the employee who suggested that became.

-Jason Lea

P.S. Next time I write about a book I have read. Promise!



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home