How I Became A Famous Novelist- Steve Hely

Cover of "How I Became a Famous Novelist&...

Cover of How I Became a Famous Novelist

How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely is another book I picked up as a result of a session at the 2011 Melbourne Writer’s Festival. For those who are not aware, Steve Hely is part of the writing team on such hit television series as 30 Rock, The Office (the US version) and American Dad. So my expectations for this book were that this would be a funny book. What I got was not so much a laugh a minute side-splitting comedy, and more of a satirical examination of the world of contemporary literature, publishing and what it means to be a successful writer.

When Peter Tarslaw receives an invitation to the wedding of his ex-girlfriend, who unceremoniously dumped him, leaving him a broken shell of a man, he decides that the only way he can tolerably attend the event is if he is a success at something. At this time he sees an interview with one of his ex-girlfriend’s favourite authors, Preston Brooks. He is a frequent fixture on the New York Times Bestseller list. Tarslaw is not a fan of his work. However, in watching the interview Tarslaw decides that Brooks is in fact a genius having made a name for himself by writing what people want, and living up to people’s idea of what a novelist should be. He decides that if Preston Brooks can do it, then so can he. He then sets about writing a book that will make him famous.

As I said this book is a satire, and while funny at times, there are moments that are so close to how things actually are, that it is more scary than funny. He makes some uncomfortable observations about the publishing business, and the idea that books and reading have become commodities that are publicised and sold in the same way that other firms sell soft drink or hamburgers. That giving the masses what they want, and creating a ‘sensation’ are more important the creating a great piece of literature.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was especially meaningful for me since I have become a participant, through this very blog, in the ‘book industry’ that he describes. ( I can only hope that my contribution is for the good of books and reading, and not part of the greater problem.) I recommend this to anyone with an interest in books, reading or publishing.

Bossypants- Tina Fey

Bossypants

Image by Michelle Wright via Flickr

This is another book that I picked up thanks to recommendations on both Library Thing and Amazon. Of course, I knew Tina Fey from Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock,  and thought it would be good for a laugh, and it was. Bossypants by Tina Fey is less a memoir and more a series of essays, mainly dealing with her experiences as a writer and comedienne.  There’s stuff about Sarah Palin too.

Fey is funny, intelligent and inspirational. She is not afraid to use the “f” word, by which I mean “feminism’. She provides insights into ‘making it’ in a male-dominated industry. For example, in the introduction she gives these words of advice, “No pigtails, no tube tops. Cry sparingly. (Some people say “never let them see you cry.” I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, the cry. It terrifies everyone.)”.

She also provides advice on how to “raise an achievement-orientated, drug-free,adult virgin.” She openly discusses the pressures placed on women, often by other women over issues such as breast-feeding versus formula; working mums versus stay-at-home; having kids early/late/not at all. Plus, she has very definite views on matters to do with body image.

But, don’t think this is all a rant from her soapbox, pushing a particular barrow. Through it all she maintains her trademark wit that fans of her work on SNL and 30 Rock will be familiar with. This book is so easy to read, it took me less than a day to read it. When I was finished I ended up dragging out my 30 Rock DVD’s just so I could have some more.

If you’re looking for a funny, yet insightful autobiography, this is it. I highly recommend this book.