Smith (Under the Suns, 2014) tells the story of an aspiring author with the same name writing a book a lot like this metafictional novel.
Formerly suicidal Ches Smith is wandering the mall seeking inspiration for his novel when he sees an amusing bit of anti-corporate art—a mannequin dressed like a homeless person: “A fetid stench emanated from the display such that store employees held hankies over their noses at a distance....At the mannequin’s feet, a homemade sign suggested customers check out Macy’s new iBum line out back by the dumpsters.” Ches follows a trail of stickers to the food court, where he encounters the artist, Thalia Tanner, a formerly suicidal guerrilla marketer and singer in a punk-country band. After their brief meeting, Ches becomes obsessed with Thalia, sensing in her a kindred spirit, only to learn shortly afterward that she was shot to death later that day at that same mall. His psychiatrist suggests that Ches write about her as a means of dealing with his feelings. His effort is made infinitely easier when the ghost of Thalia—or at least Ches’ hallucination of her—begins appearing to him. She says that he shouldn’t write a novel about her but rather about his experiences with her, starting with their meeting at the mall. The book he writes, therefore, starts to sound very similar to the one that the audience is reading. As he attempts to find her killer, deal with her oddball family, and find his authorial voice, Ches’ quest becomes increasingly abnormal. And self-aware. And deadly. The prose of Smith (the author) perfectly captures the sardonic, nihilism-tinged voice of Smith (the character), whose every writerly affectation is eventually called out by someone he meets. “A writer writing about finding his voice?” scoffs a co-worker he asks to read the book. “Done to death, man. While you’re at it, why don’t you write about a Prohibition-era PI, or a zombie holocaust, or horny vampires?” While the humor and conceit may not be every reader’s cup of tea, the author manages to keep things intriguing and find an ending that satisfies.
A self-deprecating, self-aware—and engaging—postmodernist tale.