THE THIEVES OF MANHATTAN by Adam Langer
“Letâs say you had an opportunity to get your work in front of more people than you ever thought youâd reach, a chance to get more money than you thought you could ever get, but you had to compromise everything you thought you believed in. Would you do it?”
Review by Poornima Apte (AUG 26, 2010)
Struggling writer and coffee barista, Ian Minot, is frustrated and depressed. For one thing, he just canât seem to write the kind of stories that will get the publishing worldâs attention. After all, Ian knows, his life isnât as glamorous as his Romanianâs girlfriendâs Anya Petrescu, whose travails under Ceausescu, has landed her an attractive publishing contract. In a snide reference to the New Yorkerâs 20 Under 40 list, Ian points out that âAnya had recently been named one of American Reviewâs â31 Most Promising Writers Under 31.â This year, I was too old to qualify,â he adds.
In fact, Anyaâs future is on such a meteoric track that Ian is sure she will soon be dating celebrity authors like Gary Shteyngart or Malcolm Gladwellânot some wannabe like Ian Minot. Turns out that Anya does indeed leave Ian but she does so for another kind of celebrity authorâBlade Markham. Markhamâs memoir, Bladeâa hard-hitting story about life in a gang and on drugs, has been selling like hotcakes especially after it won the endorsement of a famous talk show host (an Oprah-like celebrity).
Ian of course canât stand Bladeâhe knows his success is not well-deserved, he believes Blade is all fake (he turns out to be) and Bladeâs success just serves to reinforce the notion that success in publishing is not always related to talent alone. So one day, when a coffee bar regular whom Ian merely refers to as âThe Confident Manâ shows up with a copy of Blade tucked under his arm, Ian just loses it and kicks the guy out along with his book.
But Confident Man has some plansâand ideasâof his own. Ianâs violent hatred of Blade is just the fuel that Confident Man, aka Jed Roth, is looking for. He presents Ian with a scheme: take a book that Jed has written, make it Ianâs own, get it published (Jed, who has worked in the publishing industry will help with contacts), then reveal itâs a fake. This âtwist,â Jed assures Ian, will get the book even more publicityâso much of it that eventually Ian will be able to get his own stories published without much fuss or delay. As crazy as the idea sounds, Ian is roped in. After all, he doesnât have much to lose. And Jed Roth, who would like nothing better than to rub the publishing industryâs nose in its own filth (for many reasons of his own) has much to gain.
So what follows, is an amazingly tight caper that involves some wild goose chases and a plot that twists and turns to reveal the true color of people and situations as we go along.
Adam Langerâs work has always been clever and on the cutting edge and this one is no exception. For anyone following contemporary literature closely there are plenty of references sure to tickle the funny bone. Langer has even coined a special language centered on these literary references. For example, âFranzensâ stand for a particular kind of eyeglasses favored by the author Jonathan Franzen. Author Michael Chabonâs hair is all the rageâanybody who has a wild mane of hair has a âchabon.â References to boxed reviews in Publisherâs Weekly and appearances on Fresh Air with Terry Gross also abound, and all these elements together serve as a delicious lampooning of the publishing industry as a whole.
There are some places when you can get tired of these little bits of clevernessâas in when Langer writes out Anyaâs Romanian accent in italics. âShe was sure that effâryone would hett eet, that refyooers would reep eet to shreds and call her a tellentliss leetle feek.â This is really funny at first but gets annoying towards the end after its novelty wears out.
What really elevates The Thieves of Manhattan is that it is also a novel about kindness and authenticity. It is a wonderfully paced and well-edited novelâa taut page-turner.
âWriting a book can be a profoundly optimistic act; expecting someone to read, buy, and publish it is always a phenomenally presumptuous one. Why would a marketing department put money behind anything you wrote? Why would someone you didnât know spend twenty-five dollars to read your stories of small people leading small lives?â Jed Roth once asks of Ian. Langerâs new book shows us why. Despite all its clever contrivances, Thieves never loses its focus and in the end is a good dose of vibrant old-fashioned storytelling.
Not only is The Thieves of Manhattan a funny and wild caper, itâs also a touching story about Ian Minotâa small person leading a small life. Until of course, something very big happens to him.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 41 Â readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Spiegel & Grau (July 13, 2010)|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||YES! Start Reading Now!|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Adam Langer|
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||Read our review of:
Another writer things about a short cut to money:
and more satire on the publishing business:
- Crossing California 2004)
- The Washington Story (2005)
- Ellington Boulevard: A Novel in A-Flat (2008)
- My Father’s Bonus March (2009)
- The Thieves of Manhattan (2010)
- The Salinger Contract (September 2013)