About the Authorby John Colapinto
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Despite a severe case of writer's block, Cal Cunningham dreams of writing an autobiographical novel that will permit him to escape from his life as a penniless bookstore stockboy in dirty and dangerous upper Manhattan. Cal's dreams are threatened when he learns that his law student roommate harbors secret literary ambitions of his own. Stewart has just finished writing a page-turning novelbased on Cal's life. When a timely, fatal bicycle accident removes Stewart from the scene, Cal appropriates the manuscript as his own, and places it in the hands of legendarily freocious literary agent Blackie Yaeger, who sells the book and movie rights for two million dollars. Propelled to the top of the bestseller lists, Cal finds that he has realized his most outlandish fantasies of literary success. That is, until he discovers that someone knows his secret.
Reminscent of Patricia Highsmith's gripping "Ripley" novels, About the Author is a psychological thriller that not only casts a knowing eye on the excesses of the current Manhattan publishing world, but touches on deeper themes of literary envy, identity, guilt, and the fatal difference between reality and imagination.
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- 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.93(d)
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For reasons that will become obvious, I find it difficult to write about Stewart. Well, I find it difficult to write about anything, God knows. But Stewart presents special problems. Do I speak of him as I later came to know him, or as he appeared to me before I learned the truth, before I stripped away the mask of normalcy he hid behind? For so long he seemed nothing but a footnote to my life, a passing reference in what I had imagined would be the story of my swift rise to literary stardom. Today he not only haunts every line of this statement but is, in a sense, its animating spirit, its reason for being.
We were roommates. I moved into Stewart Church's New York apartment in the fall after my graduation from the University of Minnesota. In his Roommate Wanted ad in the Village Voice, he had described himself as a "First-year law student at Columbia University," and he looked every inch of it: tall and thin, with a doleful, high-cheek-boned face, carroty hair cropped close against the sides of his narrow skull, and greenish eyes that seemed rubbed to dullness from the hours spent scouring the microscopic print of his casebooks. Not that any of this was exactly a bad thing. It was just that Stewart did not fit my initial idea of the kind of person I would end up living with in Manhattan. I was an aspiring author and thus viewed my every action and utterance with an eye to how they would appear when fixed in imperishable print. As such, I considered myself to inhabit a higher plane of existence than people like Stewart. He so clearly belonged to the trudging armies of nonartists, of merehuman beings: the workaday drones who live out their unobjectionable lives, then pass, unremembered by all but their immediate families, into oblivion. But then, in a way, Stewart seemed to be exactly what I needed in a roommate: a cipher unlikely to distract me from what I thought would be my almost monastic absorption in the pursuit of literature.
Our apartment, a dark one-bedroom on the first floor of a prewar walk-up on West 173rd Street in Washington Heights, was obviously meant for a single occupant, or a childless couple. Both of us were broke at the time -- Stewart subsisting on a small scholarship, I toiling for minimum wage as a stockboy at Stodard's Books in Midtown. And so, with the resourcefulness common to twenty-three-year-olds in our era of diminished expectations, we devised a way to ensure each other a measure of privacy. I slept on a sofabed in the apartment's front room, an oblong chamber with a dirt-ingrained hardwood floor and chipped wall moldings; Stewart occupied the adjacent bedroom, a space almost identical to mine, with the same view out its windows of the back alley and the fire escapes of the neighboring tenement. The rest of the apartment -- a kitchen with small café table, a bathroom crammed with a claw-foot tub and a trickling toilet -- was communal.
There are only two conditions under which a pair of straight men can share such quarters: as buddies willing to overlook each other's peccadilloes, or as respectful strangers willing to stay out of each other's way. Stewart and I were the latter. Digging his way out from under what seemed an endless avalanche of essays and briefs, Stewart spent his time either shuttered in his room or squirreled away in the stacks of the law library. I, meanwhile, devoted myself to gathering the "material" that I hoped would one day comprise my autobiographical novel.
A word here about the womanizing that became my chief occupation during the two and half years that I lived with Stewart. I was not, in the accepted sense of the term, a sexual predator. For one thing, I was too poor for that. Unlike the double-breasted smoothies who used their gold cards and Rolexes to lure their quarry into cabs, I had nothing but my charm and what I can describe only as my sincerity to offer. My looks helped: an inch over six feet tall, panther-thin, with a strongly boned face softened by a tangled mass of black, Byronic locks, I had the kind of appearance that attracted all manner of females, from the lacquered gold diggers who bustled through the aisles of Stodard's Books to the porcelain-skinned, Amazon-limbed fashion models who slummed in East Village bars. Such women, who are the target of the true pickup artist, were never my first choice. No, it was the funky and bohemian artist girls who made my heart pound, the Cooper Union students with gesso-splattered shoes and Conté-rimmed fingernails who set me dreaming of a soul connection in lonesome New York. That these fierce, independent, talented girls would -- after an evening's talk about books, movies, paintings, music -- actually go to bed with me seemed, at first, too good to be true. Sure enough, it was. Although they would sleep with me once or twice, such women, I soon learned, had plans and dreams of their own, which emphatically did not include tying themselves down to one man. Again and again my efforts to convert one of these one-night stands into something long-term was met with rebuff. I continued to trawl the bars, but I could no longer kid myself that I was on a quest for permanent love.
I had worried, at first, that Stewart might take exception to the way I was conducting my romantic life. In this, he surprised me. He soon revealed a fascination with my adventures in New York nighttown. He first asked me about them one Sunday morning early in our roommatehood, after he had returned, flushed and sweating, from his weekly bike ride. Initially hesitant to offer up details, in case...About the Author. Copyright © by John Colapinto. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Meet the Author
John Colapinto has written for Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Esquire, Mademoiselle, Us Weekly, and Rolling Stone, where the landmark National Magazine Award-winning article that was the basis for As Nature Made Him first appeared. He is also the author of the novel About the Author. He lives in New York City with his wife and son.
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This was a great book! It found me rooting for Cal even though I wasn't sure I should be!
I loved this book! It had humor, suspense, and finally, irony. It's a great reworking of "Don't wish too hard for something; you may get it." Cal Cunningham, desperate wannabe author, takes on way more than he bargained for when he decides to pass off his dead roommate's book as his own. All kinds of deception, blackmail, and mayhem ensue, with Cal's frantic attempts at damage control ratcheting up the excitement. Fun, fast-moving, well-written.
Picked up this book by chance and am sure glad I fell upon it. Have been in search of something as good as Donna Tartt's 'The Secret History' which shook my world and erased all else. Well, the wait is over. John Colapinto's book is all that, if not more. The plot, the narration, the wit, the suspence came together and the result is simply stunning. Go get a copy and enjoy it.