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Monday, December 11, 2006

About the Author: A Novel

About the Author: A Novel by John Colapinto

October 24, 2003

"About the Author", simply put, is literary junk food. There's nothing of substance, the writing is only adequate, but the story is wildly entertaining.

The story is about Cal Cunningham, wanna-be novelist, who discovers after his roommate Stewart's untimely death that Stewart is a brilliant writer who has written a book about Cal's womanizing in New York City. Cal claims the book as his own and sends it off to his agent. He soon ascends to literary stardom, finds the woman of his dreams (Stewart's old flame), and is living Happily Ever After, but...someone else has the manuscript and blackmails Cal into giving him money. The plot thickens (or becomes more convoluted) until the epic conclusion.

This book is deeply flawed. The plot moves along at a manic pace, glossing over a lot of events. Everything seems to get blown out to ridiculous proportions, so that it's more of a parody than real life. I suppose that's the author's intention. I disbelieve most of the narrator's views about writing and the author's take on the literary world. Maybe I'm not plugged in enough to what's going on, but I don't know of many 21-25 superstar novelists. The author makes it sound like there's a new one every week. He also has an irritating habit of creating adjectives like "Havishamian" or "Byronesque". If I hadn't read Great Expectation by Dickens, I wouldn't know what "Havishamian" meant, it would have no meaning to me. In my opinion, that kind of writing is just a sloppy shortcut, a lazy habit. Maybe that's just me.

As sort of an aside, one thing I noticed is that while Stewart's writing is so brilliant, the reader doesn't ever really see it first-hand. We hear how wonderful it is from Cal, but never get to read it ourselves. Therefore, do we really know that it's so great? It's sort of like a couple favorite writing-related movies of mine ("Finding Forrester" and "Wonder Boys") where we see & hear only a sentence or two of the young protege's brilliant opus. My personal theory is that the writers of those movies and the author of this book didn't really have the confidence to produce such great writing, so in the case of "About the Author", readers are left with a sloppy second-hand description instead of an illuminating excerpt. OK, an excerpt wasn't necessary for the story, but think how much support it builds in the reader's mind for Cal's jealousy and everyone's subsequent adoration of him. But again, that might just be me.

Despite being deeply flawed, "About the Author" is very entertaining. It is--to use the cliche--a page-turner. Like I said, it's literary junk food; it won't make you think. So if you want to indulge your sweet tooth, go ahead and give this book a read.

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