The fictional debut of Canadian travel-writer Ferguson (Hohhaido Highway Blues, 1998): an uproarious, uneven farce about the publication of the only self-help book that actually helps—and thus brings about “the end of the world (as we know it).”
Grumpy, snide, self-absorbed book editor Edwin de Valu is shoveling through the Panderic Books slush-pile when he finds a badly typed, badly written, utterly derivative 1,300-page manuscript encrusted with daisy stickers: What I Learned on the Mountain, by Tupak Soiree. Awful. But times are hard: Panderic’s line of Chicken Broth for the . . . books is played out, and its Mr. Ethics series is on hold now that Mr. Ethics is in jail again. De Valu has to come up with something for the new list, so, after a series of wonderfully comic misadventures, he edits and cuts down What I Learned on the Mountain, then retitles it Chocolates for the Soul. The mysterious Tupak Soiree then forces de Valu to publish the manuscript as is, though de Valu avenges himself on the impolitic author by printing it as cheaply as possible, with no cover illustration or promotion. But, alas, word of mouth triumphs. Soiree guests on Oprah and soon his perfectly perky self-help-crazed wife Jenni is repeating its “Live! Love! Learn!” mantra and employing its polyorgasmic “Li Bok” sex techniques to spice up their marriage. Great sex makes de Valu even grouchier as he notices the tobacco industry going bankrupt thanks to Soiree’s sure-fire quit-smoking method—to be followed by the fashion and make-up industries as people learn to be satisfied with themselves as they are. After Mr. Ethics escapes from jail, de Valu joins him in a desperate attempt to unmask Soiree and, perhaps, teach the world to be miserable again.
Gleefully nasty. If Mel Brooks set The Producers in the publishing industry, he’d come up with something like this.