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The Thieves of Manhattan: A Novel by Adam Langer (2010-07-13) Paperback – January 1, 1750
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- ASIN : B01F81N3I6
- Publisher : Spiegel & Grau (January 1, 1750)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Ian Minot is a writer struggling to find success. He keeps submitting his stories for publication, only to constantly receive rejection notices, while at the same time, his Romanian girlfriend, Anya, is on the cusp of her own successful literary career. Stuck in a dead-end job at a coffee shop, he is incensed by the success of another author's memoir, as somehow an average middle-class guy has convinced the world that he has endured gang fights and prison torture to become a street-wise, slang-spouting road warrior. This anger results in Ian's meeting Jed Roth, a former publisher whose desire to wreak havoc on the literary world draws Ian in. Jed's proposal is simple: Ian will pretend that Jed's adventure-esque novel is his own memoir, one Jed predicts the publishing world will fall head over heels for; at the right time, Ian will admit the memoir is a sham. However, this proposal isn't as cut-and-dried as it seems.
To describe any more of the book's plot would be to ruin some of the surprises it contains, but it has mystery, adventure, gun-toting librarians, even a roadtrip to Kansas. And Langer has developed a literary vocabulary all his own--women wear dresses called "golightlys," named for the main character in Breakfast at Tiffany's, people wear eyeglasses called franzens, named for the distinctive eyewear sported by author Jonathan Franzen, etc. (Rest assured, the book has a terrific glossary at the end so you don't miss any of the inside jokes.) This is a tremendously compelling, fun and intellectually challenging story I highly recommend. Definitely not quite your everyday book!
Ian Minot is a Manhattan coffee slinger, trying desperately to publish his short stories before the dregs of his inheritance run out. His girlfriend, Anya, has become a rising star, earning a deal to publish a book of short stories about her childhood in Romania. (Would she have gotten a deal if she wasn't from somewhere exotic?) When Ian, desperate for publishing fame, enters into a scheme to publish a fake memoir with a former book editor looking for revenge on an industry he believes has lost its soul, things go a bit awry. The line blurs between real life and fiction. And Ian finds himself running for his life.
The James Frey fiasco shines through clear as day (two chapters are even titled "Bright, Shiny Morning" and "A Million Little Pieces") as the go-point for this book. But with all the great jokes (see below for another), some hilarious caricatures, like a ebonics-spouting fella named Blade who becomes the toast of the literary world when he publishes a memoir about his gangsta life, and with the morph into adventure novel as the rubber meets the road on Ian's fake memoir plot, the novel moves way beyond what could have been a too-simple 250-page insult to Frey and other fakers.
At times you feel like Langer himself is angry or disillusioned, that he has his own axe to grind. At one point, he writes: "In the press, these hoaxes were viewed mostly of symptoms of a declining industry struggling for relevance and attention and a society of declining morals." More often, though, you get the sense he's just being funny -- and it's pretty clear he had a blast writing this book.
For anyone interested in how the publishing industry works (or doesn't), and who enjoys a good laugh at its expense, this is a must. It's a slim little book, written specifically for literary nerds. And it's a whole lotta fun!
Another literary joke: Langer setting the scene at a literary party: "There was a trio of drunk writers, all named Jonathan, each of who was complaining that the Times critic Michiko Kakutani had written that she'd like their earlier books better."
Coming on the heels of great fakes like James Frey, Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair, Langer introduces us to his hero, Ian Minot - a publishing failure when he tried for years to tell the truth, Minot now sits on the precipice of major success when co-opted into producing [what he presumes to be] a fictional account as his 'memoir.' What makes this book so juicy is that Langer's characterizations of the players - the agents, the publishers, the fakers - could only come from very near-in, closely observed role models. For those in the know, the book must surely bring an extra level or two of delight.
I'd love to see this work as a movie, especially to get a gander at a good on-screen depiction of Blade Markham - author of another so-called-memoir "Blade by Blade." Langer had a ball with that one and it shows - every appearance by Blade is a hoot with his absurd, out-of-place gangster patois. He and Anya Petrescu - Ian's erstwhile Romanian girlfriend (cough, cough) - are the best things about this book. I'm hereby ordering Anna Paquin to play Anya.
Ian and co-conspirator Jed Roth's plan is to expose the fakers by announcing their own memoir as a fake. But, as all things in Langer's book, all is not as it seems. Nor is anything ever so easy for Ian's path to success.
Top reviews from other countries
Vous avez un petit coté schizophrène ? Ce livre est fait pour vous! Vous naviguerez sans cesse entre le clair et l'obscur, le vrai et le faux, la réalité et la fiction, sans savoir distinguer le manipulateur du manipulé. Vous aurez envie de ne plus vous lever pour pouvoir avancer dans ce dédale de récits entre-croisés tout en vous maudissant d'avoir enfin lu ce nouveau chapitre qui vous rapproche inexorablement de la fin du récit...et vous finirez par ne plus savoir comment vous vous appelez...D'ailleurs, suis-je réellement celui-ou celle- que je prétends être?