by Stephen Bly
Stephen Bly's Paperback Writer is an interesting approach to fiction writing. In the writing style, it seems to generate a sort of dialogue between a postmodernism and Christianity, particularly in how the two schools of thought approach reading and writing. I don't know if that is what the book sets out to do, but it is something that leaps off the page for me as I read it. The best of it is that the dialogue isn't some excursion into an overly intellectual territory. It is, instead, handled casually, and remains firmly in the context of the story. For the most part, it takes place in a conversation between an author and one of his characters, with the two discussing the boundaries between reality and fiction, and text and context (if we accept that there is such a thing as "outside-the-text," of course).
I wasn't completely won over by the book as I read, but it is one that stuck in my mind for some time after my initial engagement with it. The problem I found with the book is that some parts tended to lag a little, then the next thing you know, the action seems a little overblown. I think part of that was intentional, as a good deal of the story takes place in the overwrought mind of the fictional author, through whose eyes we are seeing events unfold.
Overall, while Paperback Writer is not something I would call great literature, it is a fun enough read, and it sort of lingers in the mind even when you've finished it. For that reason, I feel comfortable recommending it to other readers.
© Shelly Bryant, 2012