Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Carolyn Parkhurst: The Nobodies Album

I promise that I’ll write up a report on the trip to South Carolina in a day or two, but today I wanted to alert everyone to a fabulous new, must-read book: Carolyn Parkhurst’s The Nobodies Album. The official publication date is today, but the buzz has already started with a review in the New York Times, and a review is set for tomorrow’s Washington Post.

Carolyn is in my writing group, so perhaps I’m biased, but this book is funny and inventive and utterly compelling. Our discussions of each chapter as it showed up in the group always ended with someone saying to her, “Wow, I don’t know how you’re going to pull this one off.” I’m happy to report she did, writing about a writer rewriting the ends of her novels…and if that’s not enough, wrapping all that around a murder mystery.

Here’s the description from Carolyn’s website, so you’ll see why we were all in awe:

“Bestselling novelist Octavia Frost has just completed her latest book — a revolutionary novel in which she has rewritten the last chapters of all her previous books, removing clues about her personal life concealed within, especially a horrific tragedy that befell her family years ago.

“On her way to deliver the manuscript to her editor, Octavia reads a news crawl in Times Square and learns that her rock-star son, Milo, has been arrested for murder. Though she and Milo have not spoken years — in an estrangement stemming from that tragic day — she drops everything to go to him.

"The last chapters of Octavia's novel are layered throughout The Nobodies Album — the scattered puzzle pieces to her and Milo's dark and troubled past. Did she drive her son to murder? Did Milo murder anyone at all? And what exactly happened all those years ago? As the novel builds to a stunning conclusion, Octavia must consider how this story will end.”

(You can read an excerpt here.)

And one of the fun things about a writer writing about a writer is all the inside knowledge brought into the book. Carolyn put together a wickedly funny “website” for “author” Octavia Frost, the protagonist of The Nobodies Album. Here’s an excerpt from Octavia’s “blog”:

“Recently, I have been advised by a number of well-meaning and media-savvy associates that it might be in my interest to begin writing a blog. They seem to be under the impression that my reluctance is the result of age-related stodginess and technophobia, and that if they can just show me how simple it is, I'll become an enthusiastic adopter. (Look, Grandma! The picture-box has the same programs you listen to on the radio, but now you can see the characters!) They talk about “immediacy” and “fresh content” and “repeated site visits.” They describe readers hungry for “a glimpse into my mind.”

In fact, therein lies the problem. If you've read any of my books—which I would never assume you have, though I can't imagine what you'd be doing here otherwise—then you've already gotten a glimpse into my mind. And what you've gotten is the good glimpse. You know that old line about starting with a block of marble and carving away anything that doesn't look like an elephant? There's a reason sculptors don't save the discarded rubble and put it on display. …

So. Here, for the first and last time, is a sampling of the entries I'm not going to write and you, therefore, don't have to read: …

My musings about “the value of literature,” spurred by an email I received in which a potential reader asked whether my latest novel is “worth” the $23.95 it costs to procure it, or whether she should wait for the paperback. (Interestingly, she didn't seem worried that it wouldn't be worth the $13.50.) Some ironic comments (in which I'm not quite able to hide my bitterness) about the fact that any one of my books can be purchased online for a penny, plus shipping.

Carolyn will be reading TONIGHT at the Borders on Route 7 in lovely suburban Virginia, and on July 11 at Politics and Prose in DC as well as a number of other cities. More details can be found here.

What more can I say, except this: you must read this book!

Disclosure per the FTC Overlords: This is pure enthusiasm for a great book, nothing free involved, unless you count the pieces of paper on which Carolyn’s manuscript draft chapters were printed which arrived in the mail at my house, until midway through the writing process of this book, the writing group decided to email the ms. instead, at which time I paid for the paper myself.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.