- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Ecco (July 1, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 006232246X
- ISBN-13: 978-0062322463
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 56 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,364,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Arts & Entertainments: A Novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, July 1, 2014
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From the Publisher
Adelle Waldman, author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., interviews Christopher Beha
Adelle Waldman (AW): How did you decide to write about a sex-tape scandal? The plot has a bit of a “ripped from the headlines” feel. Did you base it on any celebrities in particular?
“A funny novel about bad fame… [a] fast-moving satire by Christopher Beha about the semi-accidental creation of a contemporary two-bit celebrity: sex tape, social networks, and subsequent media circus.” (—New York Magazine
“Arts and Entertainments is a 21st-century Faust written in the style of Muriel Spark.” (—Books & Culture)
“Hilarious.” (—Huffington Post)
“The ingenious way he plots to get back into his wife’s good graces provides lots of laughs in this very clever takedown of celebrity culture. Beha, deputy editor at Harper’s magazine, also gives his hapless hero plenty of heart in a novel that is both entertaining and thought provoking.” (—Booklist)
“A former actor’s sex tape rocks his world. Arts & Entertainments, by Christopher Beha, is a must” (—Cosmopolitan)
“...The storytelling is ingenious. Beha infuses the story with rich, potent irony, suggesting how susceptible we are to others’ plotting...Beha gets to have it both ways: His novel is at once brisk and episodic while critiquing the limits of brisk, episodic narrative.” (—Kirkus Reviews)
“I tore through Arts & Entertainments in a single evening, riveted by Beha’s satiric indictment of an appallingly recognizable celebrity culture...a deft, clever, and altogether too plausible novel, its last line delivering an unexpected punch that is entirely earned. Read it in an evening and see what I mean.” (—Rebecca Mead, author of My Life in Middlemarch)
“Arts and Entertainments is a sharp, hilarious look at what we’ve wrought, and Christopher Beha proves himself a truly gifted novelist. This book is smart and full of feeling and just rips along with narrative thrills. Read it, and then burn your sex tapes.” (—Sam Lipsyte, New York Times Bestselling author of The Ask)
“Beha captures in hilarious detail the many insidious ways we rush to cheapen our own identities, and how even as our sense of self veers out of our control, we still never stop trying for some deeper meaning. A funhouse dissection of our current frailties.” (—Dana Spiotta, author of Stone Arabia)
“Christopher Beha is one of the most talented young writers at work today.” (—Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins)
From the Back Cover
Handsome Eddie Hartley was once a golden boy poised for the kind of success promised by good looks and a modicum of talent. Now thirty-three, he has abandoned his dream of an acting career and accepted the reality of life as a drama teacher at the boys' prep school he once attended. But when Eddie and his wife, Susan, discover they cannot have children, it's one disappointment too many.
Weighted down with debt, Susan's mounting unhappiness, and his own deepening sense of failure, Eddie is confronted with an alluring solution when an old friend-turned-Web-impresario suggests Eddie sell a sex tape he made with an ex-girlfriend, now a wildly popular television star. In an era when any publicity is good publicity, Eddie imagines that the tape won't cause any harm—a mistake that will have disastrous consequences and propel him straight into the glaring spotlight he once thought he craved.
A hilariously biting and incisive takedown of our culture's monstrous obsession with fame, Arts & Entertainments is also a poignant and humane portrait of a young man's belated coming-of-age, the complications of love, and the surprising ways in which the most meaningful lives often turn out to be the ones we least expected to lead.
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I really thought the end with the birth and all that started to go a bit over the top but then I wouldn't be surprised if "reality" television goes there soon anyway. I kept going back and forth about whether people would actually believe this stuff I hate the stuff. Weirdly I also didn't think the book was very funny. I mean it's an interesting satire and this is just my personal opinion in play but mostly I thought it was sad.
"Handsome Eddie" Hartley dreamed of being a successful actor. After being noticed in a small play, he started to get parts in commercials and small roles on television. But despite his good looks and his desire to succeed, his career never took off. Now, at age 33, he teaches acting to students at the Catholic boys' school he used to attend, and despite the fact that he and his wife Susan are struggling to have a child—something that is taking both a financial and an emotional toll—he's happy with his life, even if it didn't turn out like he had hoped.
Well, sort of. You see, Martha Martin, star of the wildly popular television show Dr. Drake and a perennial fixture in the entertainment media, used to be Eddie's girlfriend. Eddie thought he and Martha had something special, but when her career took off, she quickly left him behind, never to speak to him again. And although Eddie has moved on with his life, he can't help but feel a little envious, a little bitter each time he sees Martha in the media.
Desperate for the money to support another fertility treatment, Eddie reluctantly jumps at the idea to sell an old sex tape that he and Martha made back in the day. He figures that no publicity is bad publicity, so if the attention around the leaked sex tape gives him the chance to get back into the spotlight, he won't complain. But Eddie drastically underestimates the effect the tape will have on his life, his marriage, his career, his relationships with others, and his dream of finally becoming an actor. He won't ever have control of his life ever again.
Christopher Beha's Arts & Entertainments is a satirical look at our obsession with celebrities and reality television, and just how manipulated reality really is. While the book strives to be outlandish, and is in some ways, it's scary how some of the more ridiculous things the book pokes fun of have actually happened on television—or probably will soon. This book had particular relevance for me as I watched a former Bachelorette have an ultrasound on television last night to determine the sex of her unborn child (despite the fact that magazines had already reported she and her husband knew the sex of their baby in advance).
This is a funny, entertaining book, and a very quick read. It all seems fairly familiar, especially if you have any knowledge of our celebrity-obsessed culture, but that doesn't detract from its appeal. The only thing I couldn't quite figure out was whether Beha was saying that everyone really wants to be a star of their own reality television series, or if his characters all were ultimately as shallow as they appeared.
I wasn't sure what to expect of this book, but I enjoyed it. It's a fun summer read—and the perfect complement to the magazines you might pick up at the newsstand or the grocery store. (But it's a book, so you can feel slightly superior.)