If you love writers behaving badly

by KJ in #AmReading

possibly my favorite trope–and the best book I’ve read yet this year,

Give me ALL the writers behaving badly. Stealing, plagiarizing, stalking, stabbing one another in the back—in books, mind you, not in my real life—and I will read them, savoring every shadenfreudian moment. (Apparently that’s not a word but it should be and I’m leaving it.)

If you, as I did, loved The PlotWho Is Maud Dixon?The Writing RetreatDear Committee Members and countless other stories in which writers go to extreme lengths to find elusive success while mostly avoiding the need to write a good book, you will adore Yellowface, by R.F. Kuang.

In it, an unsuccessful novelist steals the manuscript of her much more successful friend after said friend drops dead in front of her. But the friend is ethnically Chinese, and our protagonist is not, raising all kinds of delicious questions about who can write what and who is forced and expected to write what and whether we really care or are just performing the act of caring. Twisty and thrillery, a smart page-turner, engrossing—this is a beach read or a plane read or a weekend read and it’s also among the smartest takes on where we are now as consumers of culture that I’ve read.

Plus, if you’re a writer, the pages in which the book in question is essentially anointed a best-seller before it’s published (and the difference between that and the protagonist’s earlier experience) will make you weep. AND—bonus—there’s the amount of pre-existing publishing cred and experience this author had to have to be willing to create and sell this story and finally, delicious cherry on top—she’s a writer (a very good, now-best-selling writer who has been on all sides of the writer’s publishing experience) of Chinese ethnicity writing a white protagonist’s story. And she knows exactly what she’s doing and I am here for it.

Honorable mention in the same category goes to Meg Mitchell Moore’s The Islanders, in which one of the three POV characters is a writer who behaves very very badly himself, surrounded by publishing figures who aren’t comporting themselves very well, either. If you’re an Elin Hilderbrand, Kristan Higgins, Susan Mallery reader, this one’s for you—it’s a different kind of storytelling than the books above, but with just enough writers behaving badly to give it that flavor I love.

That’s it from me this week!

Comments are closed.