Christopher Beha delivers a cutting send-up of our cultural obsession with celebrity—a deliciously witty, and ultimately tender, novel about the absurdity of fame and the complexity of love sure to appeal to fans of Maria Semple and Jess Walter.
A sharp-edged satire with heart, Arts & Entertainments is the story of Handsome Eddie Hartley who, at thirty-three, has forgone dreams of an acting career for the reality of life as a drama teacher at a boys’ prep school. But when Eddie and his wife, Susan, discover they cannot have children, it is one disappointment too many.
Weighted down with debt, his wife’s mounting unhappiness, and his own deepening sense of failure, Eddie is confronted with an alluring solution when an old friend-turned-web-impresario suggests Eddie sell a sex tape he made with an ex-girlfriend, now a wildly popular television star. Overcoming his initial moral qualms, Eddie figures that in an era when any publicity is good publicity, the tape won’t cause any harm—a decision that will have disastrous consequences and propel him straight into the glaring spotlight he once thought he craved.
A hilariously biting and incisive take-down of our culture’s monstrous obsession with fame, Arts & Entertainments is also a poignant and humane portrait of a young man’s belated coming-of-age, the complications of love, and the surprising ways in which the most meaningful lives often turn out to be the ones we least expected to lead.
Unsuccessful New York actor "Handsome" Eddie Hartley, now a drama teacher, and his wife, Susan, are caught in financial turmoil in their attempt to have a baby. Doctor visits pile up, and to make some extra cash, Eddie secretly sells an old sex tape, featuring a former flame, the now famous Martha Martin. But Eddie's quiet life explodes after the tape is quickly traced back to him. In the swirl of sudden media interest, Susan, feeling betrayed and now pregnant with triplets, throws her husband out and uses the newfound attention to become the star of her own well-received reality television series. And as Eddie tries to win his wife back from the sidelines, he also claws into the limelight: staging a fling with a 19-year-old, signing his life away to a smarmy reality TV producer, and living his life in front of a camera. The second novel from Beha (What Happened to Sophie Wilder) is filled with unpleasant, shallow characters, and though affability isn't required for narrative success, the author never lands enough imperative moments to craft a remarkable story. While occasionally funny, Eddie's reality TV exploits often translate as dated, a behind-the-scenes expose of an entertainment trend already long in the tooth, and as he stumbles through the stardom that eluded him for so long, the satire flounders.
Could not put it down
Another great read from Chris Beha. This book was addicting. Excellent summer time read.