Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Well Thumbed Book: About the Author, a Novel by John Colapinto

by Karen Adler

For an avid book-lover like me, there’s something very appealing in books about books. Novels featuring an author, editor, reviewer, or even a reader as the hero play to my sense of self-importance. Authors can be more than puppeteers; they can be the actors, too.

John Colapinto’s About the Author gives positive reinforcement to my somewhat narcissistic notion that books with authors as the main characters make for the most interesting plotlines. The novel’s protagonist, Cal Cunningham, is one of the millions of writers who has never managed to see any of his works in print. He enjoys recounting anecdotes about his life and relationships to his straight-arrow housemate, Stewart Church. When Stewart is killed in a car accident, Cal discovers that Stewart is also a writer who’s been taking down all of Cal’s stories and has transformed them into a novel. For Cal, this discovery is a goldmine. He makes the manuscript his own, swiftly finds a publisher, and in a short space of time, goes from nobody to celebrity author, along the way becoming the blissfully happy husband of Stewart’s ex-girlfriend, Janet.

Cal’s idyllic life can’t last forever. When someone finds the original manuscript—proving that the novel isn’t a novel at all, and, moreover, isn’t Cal’s work—Cal finds himself in a desperate fight to preserve the fiction-based life he’s created for himself.

No player in the publishing game—whether author, literary agent, or publisher—escapes Colapinto’s acerbic wit. If you know anything about the bookselling process, you’ll enjoy Colapinto’s insider humor, and if you don’t know anything about publishing, you’ll learn the ins and outs of the industry, as you follow Cal’s journey from unpublished failure to award-winning author of a mega-bestseller.

I, for one, never knew that there was so much blackmail and murder in publishing!

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