About the Author - John Colapinto

... in that hour, on that silent ridge overlooking paradise, I knew pure peace—a peace untroubled by the thought that, as with those high school math tests, disaster averted is often simply disaster postponed.

I found About the Author at the library in the rotating books section, sure that I'd seen it somewhere before (when I'd thought that it was a catchy title for a novel). Now, having finished it, I still can't say for sure whether I like the book, but it held my interest until the end.

Cal Cunningham is a young "writer" in New York, which is to say that he is a womanizer and works at a bookstore and wishes to be a writer, but hasn't actually written a single thing in, oh, a couple years. His roommate, Stewart Church, is a first-year law student who seems utterly uninteresting: one of the "trudging armies of nonartists, of mere human beings," according to Cal. Until, one day, it turns out that he's been writing, and writing well.

And then, a bike accident and a few serendipitous encounters later, Cal Cunningham arrives on the literary scene with a blazing novel, Almost Like Suicide. Of course, it's not his, but nobody knows that ... except for this one person. Oh, and maybe this other one.

Most of the above occurs in the first quarter of the book, so it's not spoiling much of the plot, which is more about the tangled web Cal weaves as he struggles to hold onto his new life as a hip young writer. It's a bit like the plot of a Hollywood movie: romance, blackmail, murder, paranoia ... and you can just see it coming well before Cal does. As I got closer to the end of the book, I couldn't help but wonder if (and how) Cal would get away with it all, if Colapinto was going to pull off a happy ending or a pedagogic one. (And I won't reveal which.)

Throughout the book, Colapinto plays with the ideas of writing, of publishers and the idea of keeping the "end-user" in mind, and of cliches in both books and movies. He knows when something tests our credulity and has a little fun with it, but the overall effect of a man sliding down into murkier and murkier depths is persuasive. Still, it doesn't necessarily make for a pleasant book, and the narrator is barely a sympathetic character.

I don't usually read much suspense (for no other reason than I just haven't), and if I'd noticed that this book was marked "Danger! Suspense" on the spine I may have passed it by. As it is, though, I'm mostly glad I gave it a shot and I'd suggest it for somebody who wants a literary (literature-based?) thriller.

Fed to jonathan's brain | July 30, 2008 | Comments (0)


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