Author(s): Paul Ewen
How To Be A Public Author is a novel all about the Man Booker, using the prize as a springboard to explore what it means to be an author - and a human being - in the 21st century. It documents a series of fictitious happenings at real author events, as visited by the wonderful anti-hero Francis Plug - a troubled and often drunk misfit who causes chaos and confusion wherever he goes. Inventive, funny and moving, How To Be A Public Author is both a brilliant slapstick comedy and a surprising and touching meditation on loneliness.
Francis Plug is the fictional alter ego of New Zealand ex-pat Paul Ewen. Until he wins the Booker Prize for the book he is writing, the alcoholic Plug works as a gardener for a wealthy banker, and attends author events with Booker Prize-winning authors to get some pointers on how celebrity authors behave and to get them to inscribe their books to him. Ewen attended all the actual events, which are hilariously and astutely reported, and the actual inscriptions to Plug are displayed in the book (a complete set of living Booker winners, up to and including Eleanor Catton) along with the conversations between ‘FP’ and the authors. Frequently Plug’s idiotic and disruptive drink-fuelled behaviour at the events veers off into fiction but it is not always clear just a what point this departure is made. As he ploughs his nose deeper into the berm of his extra-literary life, the puerile Plug becomes a surprisingly sympathetic character, a sort of pathetic everyman, sharpening the satire of literary success which makes this book so compelling as well as actually making me laugh quite frequently.