Saturday, August 28, 2010

Shelf Talker: Mr. Toppit

As I wrote in my previous post, I'm am eagerly awaiting the release of Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton (The Other Press). I read it recently while on vacation, and this is what I thought:

This novel has a delightfully mid-century feel to it (even the font reminds me of an Iris Murdoch book), but has a lot to say about 2010: our rather embarrassing obsession with celebrity, rehab fascination, and even a take on the Oprah phenomenon. This book goes places you wouldn't expect, which is the best thing about it.

A British writer of obscure children’s books, Arthur Hayman, dies in the arms of an American tourist in London. The tourist, Laurie Clow, has a practically spiritual response to meeting Arthur and being with him at his death. She becomes an evangelist for his books, The Hayseed Chronicles, propelling them to Harry Potter-like popularity. As a result, the Hayman family, Luke, Rachel and their mother, Martha, reaps the rewards and challenges of being famous for doing nothing.

Elton has created some absolutely hysterical characters, particularly Lila, the obnoxious German illustrator of The Hayseed Chronicles who is like a mother bear protecting her cubs when it comes to the Chronicles.

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