John O'Farrell, Author . Grove $13 (313p) ISBN 978-0-8021-4134-7

U.K. television writer and author O'Farrell (Global Village Idiot ; The Best a Man Can Get) brings his very British brand of self-flagellating humor to his latest novel, a scathing satire of celebrity culture and the numbing effects of fame. Jimmy Conway, a part-time teacher and aspiring screenwriter, receives a bundle of letters on his birthday, delivered by his overachieving older brother. The grandiose letters, which Jimmy wrote as a boy to James Conway, his future self, highlight the aimlessness of his life. "It wasn't what I'd written that embarrassed me, it was the obvious and enormous gulf between what I'd hoped to become and who I now was that made me feel so humiliated," Jimmy realizes. But soon he finds himself catapulted toward the fame and fortune he always dreamed of when he takes advantage of happenstance to launch a career as a stand-up comic. O'Farrell skewers the media: through journalistic shoddiness, Jimmy becomes a nationally known stand-up comic, even though no one has ever seen him perform. He gets his first break when TV journalists take him for a friend of a famous comedian in their greed for a sound bite. Later, a dishonest critic gives him a brilliant review because she's too lazy to come to his show, and from there, the publicity snowballs. Jimmy's epistolary advisories from his young self appear at the start of each chapter, usually in comic contrast to the reality of his adult life. O'Farrell delivers an amusing farce. Agent, Georgia Garrett, A.P. Watt. (May)

Forecast: Media satires are abundant, and this British version may get lost in the shuffle, but O'Farrell—who has written jokes for the speeches of Tony Blair—mines a rich vein with skill and vigor.

Reviewed on: 04/12/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-2312-6
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-4464-3609-7
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