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Everything Hurts: A Novel Hardcover – April 7, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Letterman writer Scheft skewers physical and emotional pain with a mercilessly comic touch and a bit of poignancy. Phil Camp is an accidental guru who wrote a farcical self-help book under the name Marty Fleck as a joke—he swears—to pay off his divorce settlement. But years have passed, and people still read Fleck's advice as if it's the real thing. Phil, meanwhile, is limping into middle age with an excruciating, undiagnosable leg pain that his own self-help guru tells him is all in his head. Even while trying to lose the limp, woo his guru's daughter, pour out his troubles in absurd therapy sessions and confront the antagonism he has with his right-wing radio talk-show host half-brother, Phil maintains his ability to quip and deliver one-liners. But more important, his journey to avoid bodily discomfort leads him to some less corporeal truths about his life—and a reassessment of Marty Fleck. Despite the book's sometimes overly involved asides and flashbacks, Phil is a wonderful protagonist, and Scheft's biting wit coexists nicely with the undercurrent of uplift. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Phil Camp never wanted to be a self-help guru. The bestseller he wrote under a pseudonym was meant to be a parody. Instead it is taken seriously and soon earns him a spot writing a thoughtful self-improvement newspaper column. But how can he help others when he can barely help himself? For the past ten months Phil has been in constant pain, walking with a limp and lying on a wrestling mat on his apartment floor. He’s introduced to a book by Dr. Samuel Abrun, who says that the pain is all psychosomatic. Between Phil’s traumatic childhood stories and irritation at having a right-wing radio blowhard for a half-brother, this new neurotic development is just one more layer for his therapist to dissect. Ultimately Phil’s quest for pain relief leads him on a trip that does more than any self-help book possibly could. Although the conclusion wraps up a bit too quickly and neatly, Scheft, a head writer for The Late Show with David Letterman, has created a wincingly funny, honest, and sardonic novel. --Hilary Hatton

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 275 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416599347
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416599340
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,095,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Novelist, columnist, television writer. During the last three decades, Bill Scheft (www.billscheft.com) has established himself as a versatile, singular and influential comedic voice.

His latest and most ambitious work, SHRINK THYSELF (Rare Bird Books) came out in the summer of 2014. Charlie Traub leaves therapy to try and live a non-psychological life. Which would be great if he could shake his former therapist, who turns out to be, uh, nuts. Despite all unexamined evidence to the contrary, Charlie just may be unable to accept that wherever he goes, there he is.

Scheft's critically acclaimed first novel, THE RINGER (2002), the story of a 35-year-old hired gun softball player whose life changes when he has to take care of his infirm sportswriter uncle, was optioned for film by United Artists, for whom he wrote the screen adaptation. His second novel, TIME WON'T LET ME (2005), chronicled the chaotic resurrection of the prep school garage band The Truants, whose members try to reunite 30 years after learning the album they recorded in 1967 is worth $10,000. TIME WON'T LET ME was a finalist for the 2006 Thurber Prize for American Humor, the nation's highest honor for literary humor. (Five years ago, fiction met reality, as Scheft started his own garage band, The Truants (www.thetruantslive.com), who gig regularly all over the East Coast.)

His third novel, EVERYTHING HURTS (2009) introduced the world to self-proclaimed "self-help fraud" Phil Camp, who accidentally achieved international acclaim writing under the pseudonym Marty Fleck and now tries to seek relief from his unexplained chronic pain through the aid of another self-help guru, Dr. Samuel Abrun. Publishers Weekly raved: "Scheft scewers physical and emotional pain with a mercilessly comic touch and a bit of poignancy." And Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo marveled, "How rare it is for a novel to be both hilarious and profoundly moving."

In addition to his long-form fiction, Scheft was widely known for his weekly humor column, "The Show," which appeared in Sports Illustrated for three years. A collection of his columns, THE BEST OF THE SHOW, was published in 2005.

After twelve years touring as a stand-up comedian, Scheft was hired as a monologue writer for Late Night with David Letterman in 1991. He was with the program for its last two years at NBC, then moved over to CBS in August, 1993 to work on Late Show with David Letterman, where he stayed until the show ended last May. During his 24 years with Letterman, he was nominated for 15 Emmys. Which, ah, means he never won.

Scheft has contributed humor essays and short pieces to the New Yorker, New York Times, Esquire, TV Guide, George, Talk, Slate, Modern Humorist, the collections Mirth of a Nation, 101 Damnations, May Contain Nuts, Howl, The Enlightened Bracketologist, the Final Four of Everything and a few other places that may or may not exist anymore. For the last five years, he has been a regular contributor to the New York Times Book Review.

The nephew of legendary golf writer Herbert Warren Wind, Scheft edited a collection of his uncle's pieces on the Masters, AMERICA'S GIFT TO GOLF: Herbert Warren Wind on The Masters (The American Golfer, 2011)

A 1979 graduate of Harvard College, where he majored in Latin because he "thought the church was going to come back," Scheft began his professional career as a sportswriter for the Albany Times-Union before he came to the realization, "Hey, what the hell am I doing in Albany?" He moved to New York City in December, 1980.

He still lives in Manhattan with his wife, comedian Adrianne Tolsch,and the voices in his head.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In the movie "Tropic Thunder," there's a great line spoken by Robert Downey Jr., who's playing an Australian actor who has been cast as an African-American character in black face: "I'm a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude!" I'll never be able to hear that line again without thinking about the origins of Marty Fleck, the metafictional, unintentional, self-help guru in Bill Scheft's wonderfully funny third novel, "Everything Hurts."

If Phil Camp, the main character, who suddenly develops a mysterious, painful limp in Scheft's novel, represents the book's author (who, himself, suffered from an actual case of "phantom limp" while writing this book), then Fleck, who is created by the fictional Camp, represents something even more detached. When Camp writes under the pseudonym of Marty Fleck, he is allowed to operate unfettered, tapping directly into his subconscious mind to bypass the usual filters that are in place to protect not only himself (although especially himself), but also those around him. Marty Fleck is Phil Camp's id made manifest. It's no coincidence that Fleck's emphasis is on "baggage." It's the act of carrying around the baggage of our lives that weighs us down and cripples us emotionally. It's the act of carrying around the baggage of Phil Camp's life that has weighed HIM down and crippled him--both emotionally and physically. In the same way that physical toxins may eventually manifest themselves in the form of malignant tumors in the human body, psychic toxins, emotional pain ("baggage," if you will) can develop into cancers of the soul. Marty Fleck emerges from Phil Camp like a psychic tumor, a boil that eventually becomes self-lancing as Camp lies on a wrestling mat writing advice columns to himself.
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Format: Hardcover
Bill Scheft's latest novel has something for everyone: familial intrigue, Mamet-like dialogue, obscure sporting references, hilarious quotes and self-help authors who need help.

It starts with Phil Camp writing a spoof self help-book called "Where Can I Stow My Baggage." Unfortunately, no one gets the joke but Phil. People take "Baggage" to heart and Phil winds up with the enviable kind of pop culture advice career that Dr. Phil would give his self respect for. Guess we're too late on that one...

Phil soon discovers, however, that his candy-coated, feel good advice doesn't do anything for the psychosomatic pain he develops in his leg.

Along the way we're introduced to Phil's estranged (and strange) family, his Irish Shrink, and a real self-help guru who just might be able to heal Phil if he doesn't kill him first for dating his daughter.

With humorous and insightful scenes involving Phil's analysis, the romantic pursuit of his healer's daughter, his relationship with his brother and even the New York Yankees, Bill Scheft has hit another home run.

Scheft can make you laugh out loud one minute, then have you holding your head in your hands as you recognize your own foibles in his deft characterizations.

Enjoy his work. As always. Maybe this time the Thurber Award people will get it right.
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Format: Hardcover
Our hero, Phil Camp, is a worthy successor to College Boy and all the members of The Truants, stars of Bill Scheft's earlier hilarious novels. In EVERYTHING HURTS, Bill's third novel, Phil finds unexpected success when he writes a fake self-help book under a fake name and follows it up with more success writing a weekly column under said fake name. When a mysterious pain in (...) wrecking his life he begins working through painful issues in his past in order to find a cure, and along the way we meet a self-help guru and his amazing daughter, Phil's blow-hard, right-wing brother, a terrific teenage girl across the hall and a few other well developed characters, my favorite being the Irish Shrink--we could all use someone like him in our emotional corner. This is Bill's most mature work so far, dealing with real human frailty and failures, as well as healing, emotionally and physically. As we've come to expect from Bill, the subtle brilliant wit and outrageous guffaws are plentiful, but the surprise is the depth of the relationships he explores here with great success. The only downside I can see is that I'll have to wait a while for his next novel...
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Format: Hardcover
When Phil Camp writes a book in order to make an early payoff of his divorce settlement, he stumbles upon national fame as his biting alter-ego, self-help guru Marty Fleck. However, while Phil/Marty can write self-help columns that cut to the chase, he can't help himself out of a cutting leg/back pain that renders him immobile and isolated. After bailing out of disc surgery, he is introduced to a 'real' self-help guru, Samuel Abrun, who teaches that most pain is rooted not in physical injury but in emotional injury and anger.

As we follow his pursuit of recovery, we see Phil find an unlikely woman to love him into mobility. We also meet his polar-opposite brother who can literally feel Phil's pain, but can't help inflicting a little more for good measure. His helpful neighbor Elly brings a youthful enthusiasm into his life that he discovers had been lost, and his therapist, affectionately known as the Irish Shrink, helps Phil dig beyond the nerve endings to the root causes of his anger (and his limp), even decades into his past.

This work does a fantastic job capturing the dynamics of a man's relationship with the significant men in his life, the significant women in his life, and the sciatic nerve in his leg. There is brilliant laugh-out-loud humor throughout, but it never compromises the touching nature of the message. Sometimes pain doesn't go away by cutting something out, but rather bringing something (or someone) back in.
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