Will Ferguson, Author . Canongate $24 (312p) ISBN 978-1-84195-275-8

Though it might seem redundant to satirize the self-help industry, Canadian writer Ferguson (Hokkaido Highway Blues) makes a heroic effort in his first novel, combining sitcom-like gags about the publishing industry with the truism that if a self-help book ever actually succeeded in its goals, it would wipe out its own market. The massive and horrible What I Learned on the Mountain, by Rajee Tupak Soiree, arrives in Edwin de Valu's slush pile and is promptly tossed in the garbage by the hapless editor. However, Mr. Mead, owner of Panderic Books, needs a self-help book to fill a hole in the fall catalogue. Edwin volunteers Tupak's magnum opus, then sets out to retrieve it from the waste system and edit it, a process that proves to be unsettling. Edwin's editorial ordeals are mitigated by his immediate boss, May Weatherhill, with whom he is carrying on an intermittent affair, although he is married to the insufferable Jenni. Eventually, the book comes out and becomes a sleeper hit: soon all of America is quitting smoking, drinking, drugging and even reading (except for Tupak's oeuvre). Edwin and Mr. Mead are so horrified by the new world they have helped create that, accompanied by Mr. Ethics, a former Panderic self-help author who is on the lam from prison, they resolve to find and kill Tupak. This is a richly imagined and at times darkly humorous book, but Ferguson's felicities are undermined by the clunky obviousness of his biggest jokes. Agent, Carolyn Swayze. (June 10)

Reviewed on: 05/27/2002
Release date: 00/00/0000
Paperback - 363 pages - 978-84-95908-33-9
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-06-052510-1
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4561-2932-3
Analog Audio Cassette - 1 pages - 978-0-86492-326-4
Paperback - 978-84-95908-55-1
Hardcover - 255 pages - 978-1-84067-355-5
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-14-305696-6
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