Famous Writers School: A Novel

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9781582433561: Famous Writers School: A Novel
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Steven Carter, who has been called "madly inventive" (Kirkus) and "darkly comic" (Village Voice), has a genius for letting his characters speak for themselves, and here they do so quite literally. Famous Writers School is composed of the letters and stories of three authors who are taking a would-be correspondence course by that grandiose name, and the self-serving "lessons" that Wendell Newton, their endearingly obtuse instructor, doles out in response. Wendell's oddball collection of students include Rio, an alluring blues singer on whom he quickly develops a crush; Linda Trane, an unhinged housewife who seems to be stalking him; and Dan, a truly talented author of hard-boiled detective fiction. As Dan's gritty mystery arrives piece by piece, Wendell gets hooked on the story--and decides to dress it up in his own style in order to pass it off as his creation. Gradually the slender threads of connection between each character become apparent, even as Wendell's imagination careens out of control. Carter skillfully weaves these narratives into a genre-bending romp that is at once reminiscent of The Jane Austen Book Club and Get Shorty.

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About the Author:

Steven Carter teaches at Georgetown College in Kentucky.

From Publishers Weekly:

Wendell Newton, the protagonist in Carter's second novel (after I Was Howard Hughes), is a former editorial staffer at America's Farmer and author (or so he says) of more than 70 stories, essays and reviews, and a forthcoming novel. He's also the founder, director and writer-in-residence of the Famous Writers School, a correspondence course advertised in the back pages of literary quarterlies. His students include a John Deere sales rep who writes gritty crime fiction and two women—a Pittsburgh "blues and torch" singer and a housewife given to sentence fragments—whose ambitions are less well-defined. The tractor salesman's talent makes Wendell's attitude toward him initially adversarial and eventually predatory, while Wendell's relationships with the two women quickly devolve into psychological gamesmanship. Some of Wendell's writing advice is wryly humorous ("[E}very artist steals. However, when one steals, he must steal brilliantly"), but, as Wendell insists in Lesson Five, plot must always grow out of character, and it's here the novel stumbles. Though Wendell exerts a perverse charm on the reader as a lovable loser, his students, who exist entirely through their correspondence, are lightly sketched. The novel's rewards are nonetheless considerable. Carter has a terrific ear for the rumblings of the human ego and an intuitive sense of how fiction is often substituted for truth—and vice versa. (Oct.)
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