How I Became a Famous Novelist

Steven Hely

How I Became a Famous Novelist
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How I Became a Famous Novelist

Steven Hely

What Pete Tarslaw wants is simple enough:

Fame. Realistic amount. Enough to open new avenues of sexual opportunity. Personal assistant to read mail, grocery shop, etc.

Financial comfort. Never have a job again. Retire. Spend rest of life lying around, pursuing hobbies (boating? skeet shooting?)

Humiliate ex-girlfriend at her wedding.

Sick of life as he knows it, Tarslaw sets out to write a bestselling novel, armed with a formula for success cobbled together from previous bestseller list. Once the sales ranking for The Tornado Ashes Club starts its meteoric rise, his inevitable decline looms - and his fall from grace will be nothing short of spectacular.

How I Became a Famous Novelist is the hilarious tale of how Pete Tarslaw’s ‘pile of garbage’ became the most talked about, read, admired and reviled novel in America. It will change everything you think you know - about literature, appearance, truth, beauty, and those people out there who still care about books.


‘In strewn banners that lay like streamers from a long ago parade the sun’s fading seraphim rays gleamed onto the hood of the old Ford and ribboned the steel with the meek orange of a June tomato straining at the vine.’ If you read that sentence and think the words flow like a freshly dipped brush painting – an image on the canvas of your mind – then Steve Hely’s How I Became a Famous Novelist is most definitely not for you.

Dissecting bestsellers with the detached coldness of a serial killer, no literary genre is safe from slacker Pete Tarslaw when he decides he will become a famous novelist in time to humiliate his ex-girlfriend at her wedding. Using the 12 (until now) unwritten Rules of Best Sellers, Tarslaw succeeds in his quest. (Rule 6: Evoke confusing sadness at the end; Rule 7: The prose should be lyrical; and – my personal favourite – Rule 9: At dull points include descriptions of delicious meals.) But when you create a novel by putting together pieces of other novels, then you really should know (especially if you claim to be a fan of ‘real’ literature) that what you’re going to end up with is Frankenstein’s monster. And that’s exactly what Tarslaw gets.

E.B. White once said, ‘Analysing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.’ Until How I Became a Famous Novelist, the same cannot have been said about literature: there are whole genres and sub-genres of books analysing books about how to write books. Steve Hely, the Dexter Morgan of the publishing world, has changed that. I can promise you: you will never be able to read a book the same way again. In fact, I’m issuing you a challenge. Read this book. Go on. I dare you.

Dani Solomon is from Readings Carlton

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