Bestseller

The London Book Fair opened its doors at nine o’clock on a Monday morning at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre. A swarm of publishers, agents, scouts, booksellers, wholesalers, distributors, sales reps, consultants, PR staff, journalists, printers, designers, shippers, writers, would-be writers, translators, proofreaders, time-wasters, fraudsters, crackpots, literati, glitterati, blogerati, twitterati and other unclassifiable publishing rabble…”: this is the world that Alessandro Gallenzi’s novel, Bestseller (Alma Books, 2010), is set in.

It’s a world he knows very well: as well as an author, Gallenzi is a publisher – indeed, as a founding director of Alma Books (and previously of Hesperus), a successful and distinguished one.

According to the blurb, “Bestseller is a caustic portrait of contemporary culture and of Britain’s obsession with fame, success and becoming the next J.K. Rowling”. I’m don’t think it is, really: the word ‘portrait’ implies a greater commitment to depiction (and, indeed, credibility) than I find in the text itself.

But I don’t intend that as a critical comment. Rather, Bestseller serves to remind us that ‘caricature’ is not necessarily a negative term. The characters whose fates intertwine in this book – the man-of-letters publisher who the industry has passed by, the consultants and investors who know nothing of, and care less for, books, the wannabe writer who ranges merrily across genres without a talent for any – all are caricatures. But they are enjoyable ones.

What this book is, is not a portrait, but a romp – a brightly written, briskly plotted, one. I found it a genuine page-turner – one that keep me reading when I should have been asleep and when I should have been working.

Caricatures; romping; story-telling: Bestseller returns us, I’m pleased to say, to the world of Thomas Rowlandson.

According to the blurb, “Bestseller is a caustic portrait of contemporary culture and of Britain’s obsession with fame, success and becoming the net J.J. Rowling”. I’m don’t think it is, really: the word ‘portrait’ implies a greater commitment to depiction (and, indeed, credibility) than I find in the text itself.

But I don’t intend that as a critical comment. Rather, Bestseller serves to remind us that ‘caricature’ is not necessarily a negative term. The characters whose fates intertwine in this book – the man-of-letters publisher who the industry has passed by, the consultants and investors who know nothing of, and care less for, books, the wannabe writer who ranges merrily across genres without a talent for any – all are caricatures. But they are enjoyable ones.

What this book is, is not a portrait, but a romp – a brightly written, briskly plotted, one. I found it a genuine page-turner – one that keep me reading when I should have been asleep and when I should have been working.

Caricatures; romping; story-telling: Gallenzi returns us, I’m pleased to say, to the world of Thomas Rowlandson.

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