Deb: Your Turn – Fictional Writers

On the day I learned that Alaska’s celebrity author Sarah Palin has inked a new book deal, I also heard that she’s shopping a reality show (at possibly one million dollars per episode).  That got me to thinking:  Would anyone watch a reality show featuring me as an author?  Not likely.  I love what I do, but my daily grind is not exactly exciting even though, like Sarah’s show, it’s set in Alaska.

But the lives of some writers do make good drama – and fiction.  Fairbanks writer Michael Engelhard wrote to say he just finished the novel After the Workshop by John McNally — a fictional memoir by an ex-Iowa Writers’ workshop student and blocked writer who now works as a media escort.  As Engelhard explains, “He’s had one brilliant story published in the The New Yorker and has been stalled on his novel for the past twelve years.  It’s humorous and full of barbs (“Perhaps novelists are only failed poets?”) and insights into the publishing and writing life.”

As Engelhard notes,  “It always feels cathartic to see our plight not taken too seriously and even turned on its head, as a source of inspiration.”  He wonders what other fiction about the writing life our readers have enjoyed.  Comments?

3 thoughts on “Deb: Your Turn – Fictional Writers”

  1. Susan Orlean's "Adaptation" is a great piece with two writer brothers at the heart; one is super serious and the other a happy hack. Guess who winds up asking for help. It's a great ride for anyone but especially if you are a writer. It was made into a movie as well.

  2. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    I've been told that novels about writers don't sell, but as writer, I love them.

    My favorites include many books by Philip Roth, starting with GHOST WRITER (which I can't recommend enough), in which a young writer goes to the country to meet his mentor — and gets pulled into a drama involving a young woman who seems to resemble Anne Frank. (I don't want to say too much.) The best part of the book is watching how this young writer, in mere pages, begins to shape his sense of authorial self: dealing with his parent's criticism and the criticism of the Jewish community, and letting his imagination expand. It's a thin book, less R-rated than Roth's later work.

    My favorite book about the writing life from a woman's perspective is THE WIFE by Meg Wolitzer. This book is so sharp, smart, sassy, funny (I'll stop with the adjectives) that I can't believe it isn't better known. It's about the wife of a famous writer — but it's also about more than that, with plenty of surprises.

    A new book I haven't yet read but want to read is Nicholson Baker's THE ANTHOLOGIST. Baker has a unique vision of the world (I just finished his 1988 debut novel, THE MEZZANINE which takes place entirely on an escalator ride as a man makes his way back to work after buying a pair of shoelaces). This new book is about writer's struggle to anthologize poetry.

  3. James Michener's "The Novel," like most of his novels, is a great read, especially if you like a load of descriptive setting details and smartly woven characters.

    In this book he writes about a fictional writer/novelist supposedly writing his last book…

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