All hail the comic novel! 2009 might go down in my personal history as the year I finally accepted that I just really love a funny novel. Steve Hely’s How I Became a Famous Novelist didn’t disappoint. The adventures of Peter Tarslaw, writer of fraudulent college admissions essays and treacly, sentimental novels, is a must-read for any follower of the book world. Not only does Hely skewer every stereotype — from Lee Child-style thriller writers to AJ Jacobs-esque “I did it for a year and wrote a book about it” memoirists — he doesn’t spare the readers, either.
Despite its humor, this novel is deceptively adventurous in form, with each chapter opening with a bit of textual ephemera from the story itself — a snippet of a movie script, an excerpt from a bad novel, a list of rejected first sentences for the novel. Among the many charms of this novel is a truly climactic scene at a wedding reception, featuring a drunken speech that puts to lie all other drunken wedding speeches. It’s the Citizen Kane of drunken wedding speeches, so to speak. This is a great novel for anyone who’s ever wanted to tell Oprah Winfrey to shut up, or laughed at a poorly written bestseller, or wondered if the author they were patiently listening to was completely full of shit or only partially. This book will remain memorable for its tremendous fake New York Times bestseller list, if for no other reason: “#14. The Jane Austen Women’s Investigators: Housewives inspired by the 19th Century novelist probe a murder mystery in their quiet suburb.”