A character attempts to make her author a better writer in this comic novel from Diamond (To Hell With Johnny Manic, 2019, etc.).
Author Wanda Wiley’s subconscious has a long-term resident. She’s Hannah Sharpe—a willful runaway who has failed to make the final draft of any of Wanda’s 18 romance novels due to her recalcitrant personality—who lives in a Victorian farmhouse surrounded by foggy, nebulous Nowhere. Now the political thriller that Wanda is ghostwriting, The President Has Been Stolen, has produced a roommate for Hannah. Trevor Dunwoody is a not-too-bright alpha male who doesn’t immediately grasp that he is temporarily out of his book, stashed—like Hannah—in a timeless netherworld. Hannah would love to get away from Trevor and onto the pages of a real novel, but Wanda can’t come up with anything for her. Wiley’s imagination isn’t helped by all the marijuana she’s smoking to self-medicate her depression, the result of her six-and-a-half-year toxic relationship to skirt-chasing professor Dirk Jaworski. Can Hannah enlist Trevor in her effort to inspire Wanda to leave Dirk, get a grip, and write them out of their depressing morass? Or will the insidious influence of selfish men—in Wanda’s personal life and in the publishing industry—keep Hannah trapped forever? Diamond’s prose is funny and barbed, particularly the dialogue between Hannah and Trevor. He takes aim at genre conventions and their unrealistic treatment of characters. “You’ve been living in a world of male fantasy,” Hannah tells Trevor about the series of which he is the star. “In the real world, not every woman is a hot babe. In the real world, the forensic scientist earns her position through brains and hard work. And not every woman falls into bed with a man just because…he has a big pistol and is good at shooting it off.” Wanda’s waking life, which involves insecurities surrounding her career and relationship as well as a new potential romantic partner, serves as an emotional ballast against the metafictional struggles of Hannah. Together, their narratives make an argument for better fiction that is both clever and surprisingly compelling.
A well-crafted literary satire with something to say about genre fiction.