The Best Book in the World by Peter Stjernstrom and Rod Bradbury (translator)
|The Best Book in the World by Peter Stjernstrom and Rod Bradbury (translator)|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A humorous, satirical nudge at the publishing industry with a serious side and an anti-hero for whom we can plump. Cracking stuff!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 286||Date: September 2013|
|Publisher: Hesperus Press Ltd|
Titus Jensen may not have written many great novels for a while (if ever) but his festival readings of others' works are renowned. Why, his rendition of The Diseases of the Swedish Monarchs from Gustavas Vasa to Gustav V has been compared favourably to his offerings from Handbook for Volvo 245. However, one drunken night he and romantic poet Eddie X agree that their fame on the festival circuit would be insignificant by comparison if they could write the best book in the world; a combination of all genres, appealing to all tastes and making all the best seller categories. They start work on it the next day but, rather than collaborate, each wants the lone glory. The race (or should that be battle?) to the publishing date is on!
Swedish author Peter Stjernstrom has fingers in many pies. Not only does he write books in his own name, he's also a ghost writer, an advertising copywriter and owns a part share in an author agency. All are activities that bring him into contact with professional writers and author support services which he digs at mercilessly and to great effect. For The Best Book… isn't just a humorous novel, it's literary satire that has a darker side and adult themes.
I have a feeling that if you work within the literary world you will glean more jibes and jabs than we outside but that doesn't mean we miss out. We can appreciate the tunnel-visioned-but-naïve agent, smile (ok… guffaw) at the inappropriate museum guide with the warped sense of child education and giggle at the conversation between Titus and the pizza chef, not to mention the subtler moments like the reference to book covers.
In a way this is a comedy of the grotesque as the only true goody in the novel is the city of Stockholm although this doesn't mean that the cast are all unlovable. Anyone with a heart will feel for Titus wanting to regain the former glory that the charismatic Eddie X now takes for granted. Titus isn't just fighting to be the first in the shops with his book; he's fighting for his self-respect, his health, his life in fact.
I don't know if the translator Rob Bradbury had anything to do with the British cultural references but they go a long way towards embellishing the story with our local engagement. Having said that, whether they were there or not, we'd still focus on Titus and Eddie, whom I pictured throughout as Bill Nighy and Rupert Everett (may they both forgive me).
Coincidentally (or not), by writing a novel about a novel that encapsulates may genres, Peter has created a book that encapsulates many genres. We're even treated to a pizza recipe so once we've relished the words intellectually we can gorge on them internally. Not many novels offer that!
If you enjoy a knock at contemporary cultural icons and a laugh, try The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone by Will Storr. It's a little darker with more of a fantasmagorical twist with the same level of originality as it takes a swipe at celebrity chefs.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Best Book in the World by Peter Stjernstrom and Rod Bradbury (translator) at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Best Book in the World by Peter Stjernstrom and Rod Bradbury (translator) at Amazon.com.
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