How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely is a great book. I usually hate titles that scream as loudly as this one does (such as God Is Not Great or A Heartbreaking Word of Staggering Genius). My most beloved books come from the plainest of titles (see: The Bell Jar).
However, this book is brilliant.
Hely explores the sludge of the literary world, creating a character named Pete Tarslaw who aims to write a best seller and win back his girlfriend. Tarslaw understands people. He understands that the public is moronic and by combining those elements that have spelled out win for other people, the public will like his book. These elements include: tornadoes, a grandmother, army flashbacks and a love story.
The idea behind this book is true. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people out there who will read a book because it appeals to what they think they should read. (See: Chuck Palahniuk [nihilist young men], Oprah’s Book Club [menopausal middle aged women], the author Lauren Weisberger [shallow 20-30something women], J.D. Salinger [people who consider themselves serious lit peeps]). Hely is going after those that consider themselves “serious readers” with Tarslaw’s dramatic tale, The Tornado Ashes Club. And I love any opportunity to knock those people down a couple of pegs.
What Hely ends up with is a humorous story that touches on the foibles of the publishing world.