Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Daniel Waterstone has had aspirations to be a successful and famous writer, one that would follow the chains of Steinbeck and Faulkner. Fantasies about it often overwhelmed and clouded his head.

Although somewhat prideful and arrogant at his graduation, Daniel had a point. “Our literature has been in decline for decades. Loopy fads and fantasy genres, of questionable merit, now clog our once-great literary arteries.” (3) There was an “urgency” for a revival of great American literature.

Now, 10 years later, he is living as a “true” artist—in a run-down apartment with a bed, a desk, and a typewriter. He was the poor, starving artist. But he did win that writer’s award in college. Yeah, that’ll pay the bills.

I liked this book because it authenticated the struggles and passions of a real writer trying to come up with the next great story while also trying to make a buck. Aren’t we all? 

But to hear the words: “Nobody is buying what you write. No one is buying your books…Your work has no commercial appeal.” (15) Heartbreaking. Of course, the classic was Daniel’s reaction—utter freeze mode. “I don’t have anything else. This was it. This is it. I poured my soul into these pages…agonized over every single word, every phrase, every description…every vowel.” (17)

A question that every writer must ask is: What do I write? Do I write something the market wants and that will sell? Or do I write what I want?

“Idiots do not have the intellectual capacity to identify genius. All that idiots are mentally equipped to recognize are other idiots.” (32) But what do they read? “People are miserable and are leading lives filled with a mix of boredom and pain.  Books help them to escape all that.” (37)

But “[Daniel] didn’t want to pimp out his genuine talents and become a hack, just to sell books and become ‘popular.” (41) But he was broke and he needed to do something.

“As frustrating as it may be…you can only watch from the sidelines as your baby grows up. In most cases, they die or, more likely, stall in infancy. In some rare cases, however, a book becomes a monster. Whether we like it or not, once it goes public, a book takes on a life of its own.” (72)

“People say that it’s good to have an open mind but the best kind of mind to have is one that’s totally vacant.” (131)

The agent is crazy! In fact, the entire publication spectrum was crazy—yet accurate. For a dream to finally come true but to have none of the fulfilling qualities one anticipated seemed lyrical, ironic and, to paraphrase Daniel, satirical.

The novel explores the dark, cold recess of the publishing world along with a slew of ineffable, metaphysical possibilities.

Well-written and enthralling, this smart and witty novel is a must-read! Funny, sorrowful, and relatable. It will stay with you long after you’re done.  

My rating: 5 stars

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