Monday, November 29, 2010

Looking for a laugh? Check out this 2010 Thurber Prize winner

The 2010 Thurber Prize for American Humor was awarded on October 4 to Steve Hely's debut novel How I Became a Famous Novelist. I read the novel back in August '09 (I used the Reading History feature in my online library account to figure the date out) and after many laughs, gave it a five-star rating.

Hevy's protagonist, Pete Tarslaw, an employment-challenged liberal arts graduate, utilizes any/all formulaic publishing tricks to become a famous novelist. His aim isn't glory and riches, mind you (but they are a nice benefit), but simply to make an ex-girlfriend, who is about to marry someone else, jealous.

Inspired by fictional best-selling author/hack Preston Brooks, Pete's rules (aka "Writery Statements") for certain best-seller list glory include, "Must include a club, secrets/mysterious missions, characters whose lives change suddenly, surprising love affairs, women who've given up on love but who turn out to be beautiful." Glance at any best seller list and I'm sure you'll see a few authors who employ these tacks on a regular basis. Pete succeeds with the best selling Tornado Ashes Club.

Hely, who currently writes for the hit sitcom The Office, uses satire and a sharp wit to make a mockery of the publishing industrial complex, including the authors who aspire to literary success. While there are moments of sentimentality, How I Became a Famous Novelist, remains funny through the end.

Read an excerpt and listen to Terry Gross' interview with Mr. Hely on NPR's Fresh Air.

Alison @ Warrenton

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