Lately, I feel like reading books that address the fact that they’ve been written. By people. By writers, actually. Living in Los Angeles, finishing my first year of a PhD in Literature, working on a bit of writing myself, I feel like I want to write about writing all the time. But no one would find that interesting– right? No one would fucking care? Well, when these brilliant geniuses write about writing, I fucking care.
This debut novel by French genius Laurent Binet was called a masterpiece by the Rumpus. And it is! It’s plot charts the assassination of a high-level Nazi in occupied Prague. The two parachutists, one Czech and one Slovak, would be heroes for generations to come; the dead Nazi, known as “The Blond Beast” or “The Butcher” is the type of terrifying Aryan psychopath Tarantino knows well. And the writer/narrator in this novel, the one putting the events down page-by-page, is totally thrilled by these characters, he’s devastated by their failure, impressed by their feats, and annoyed at himself every time he has to invent a bit of dialogue to put their mouths. A brilliant bit of writing about writing. Voted most likely to Nobel Prize.
It’s a weird kind of obsession, the “overshare.” Emily Gould is the New York genius who literally defined the over-share for Millennials. The literary editor-turned Gawker columnist- turned blog aficionado exposed her ex-boyfriend in a long and incredible New York Times Magazine cover story I have almost memorized by now. This is the book that came of it, a self-exposing nonfiction that charts the writer’s obsession with writing about herself. In the article, she admits, “It’s easy to compare the initial thrill of evoking an immediate response to a blog post to the rush of getting high, and the diminishing thrills to the process of becoming inured to a drug’s effects. The metaphor is so exact, in fact, that maybe it isn’t a metaphor at all.” In the book, she watches herself “rise and fall and rise” again using the melancholic essay as her medium instead of a blog. Her writing has that same addictive quality as her oversharing does. It feels a little scummy and totally pleasurable to read about her waitressing/dating/writing for Gawker/being 20 in New York days. Voted most likely to screenplay.
OK, this book feels old because it was written in the 90s. But Jonathan Dee knows something about New York, about writers, about emergency, about fame, and about how to flesh out characters so desperate they would do anything. During a (Rodney King-like) race riot in New York, a white guy is pulled from his car and beaten by a mob. Turns out the white guy is a failed novelist, the mob is led by a black man caught unawares by the violence– and each has a publishing company after them for the rights to their ‘stories.’ Dee’s voice is natural and assured, he deftly takes us through each player in the game: the lawyer, the film producer, the junior editor, the wife of the writer, the failed poet friend, the mother of the accused. But mostly, he takes us through the writer’s writing– how do you write a random act of violence? How the hell do you write that book? If you’re Dee, you write a novel about a memoir and you do it brilliantly. Voted most likely to win a Pulitzer late in life.