The Thieves of Manhattan

Monday, August 9, 2010

Title: The Thieves of Manhattan
Author: Adam Langer
Pages: 253
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (Random House)
Release Date: July 13, 2010

What a unique and interesting book this was.... The Thieves of Manhattan is one of those cleverly written books that sort of has a book within a book. Sort of. It's hard to explain unless you read it. But basically it is a satirical take on the cutthroat publishing world which, of course, takes place largely in New York City. This book clearly also makes a mockery out of "fake memoirists" such as the famous A Million Little Pieces by James Frey scandal (which if you've been a reader for a while I'm sure you know about but if not it's an author who released a memoir, was on Oprah and all that, then it was learned it was not true and he fabricated much of the main parts of the book). In fact, the author writes a lot about genuineness and the ironies associated with that. And in the end I'm not entirely too sure what the author's stance on it is... I think the purpose of him doing this was more an observation of the publishing industry itself rather than his opinion, per se.

The main character is Ian Minot who is an unpublished writer working at Morningside Coffee to pay the bills. He is dating a Ukranian woman, Anya, who is also a writer, and he despises Blade Markham, the latest celebrity memoirist whose memoir Ian thinks is a load of crap. Ian's short stories about his life haven't been picked up by any literary agents because while the writing is okay, there's just nothing exciting about it. Then a run-in with "the confident man" who thoroughly irritates Ian by spending time drinking coffee at Morningside Coffee while reading Blade Markham's book sends Ian's life in a tail spin that leads to his dreamt of involvement in publishing but also leads much further, threatening his life in addition to his integrity.

The Thieves of Manhattan is also very creatively done. The author included a 2-3 page "glossary of terms" in the back of the book to explain the words he's renamed according to their literary counterparts: he sleeps on a "proust":
n. A bed, particularly when used as the locus of inspiration, taken fro the favored location of the author Marcel Proust. (pg. 258)
He hopes that if published he will earn a large "Frazier":
n. a particularly large advance for a book, from Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain, who was rumored to have received a healthy seven-figure advance for his follow-up novel, Thirteen Moons. (pg. 256)
And he jeers at those novelists who try to appear stylish by wearing "Franzens":
n. the sort of stylish eyeglasses favored by the author, Jonathan Franzen. (pg. 256)
Langer "name drops" throughout whenever he's at some type of publishing party -- he refers to actual people/authors, literary agencies (and possibly agents though I couldn't be sure), and publishers. It made me wonder if he had to have their permission or not, but it was interesting to see everyone appear in the book (including a literary agency I've reviewed books for!). The book is broken up into three parts, and each part is broken up into short "chapters" which are titled and appear randomly wherever they start on the page (meaning the chapters aren't necessarily broken apart by a page). The style made it an easy read. I admit some parts of the book made me laugh out loud and other parts had much more subtle humor, some of which probably flew over my head since I'm not really in the industry. However, I do wonder if those completely outside the industry (because as a book blogger and a wannabe one day author I have actually learned an immense amount about how things work) would be that interested in the plot of this book. It's hard for me to be objective and decide. The ending (like the last fourth or so) was strange for me because it was unrealistic -- which is ironic, but I can't say more to explain that.. you'd have to read it -- cryptic enough? LOL.

All in all, was an interesting and creative book. Ultimately, I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I had expected, but it was still good.


Zibilee said...

Oh this sounds like it would make a wonderful read for me! I think that the synopsis and the creative aspects of the story sound one of a kind, and like something I's enjoy very much Thanks for the great review on this book. I must get a copy for myself!

christina said...

I'm really intrigued with the dictionary in the back! How neat. I love when people make up new words.

Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

This sounds like an eye-opening and funny book. :)

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