Francis Plug: How To Be A Public Author, by Paul Ewen, is unlike any other book I have ever read. Full of humour, pathos and insightful observations on the literati, it is a book that should appeal to all who are interested in successful writers and the world that they inhabit.
It tells the tale of Francis Plug, an aspiring author with a vivid imagination. He is often drunk, meaning that it can be hard to tell at times how much of what he sees is real. This book is his attempt at offering fellow authors instruction on how they should be conducting themselves at the increasingly popular, public, literary events. His research involved attending talks where he listened to Booker prize winners discuss their writing before signing copies of their work. I would love to know if authors ever encounter the likes of Francis Plug at such events.
Until he succeeds in winning the Booker prize for the novel that he intends to write, Francis Plug works as a gardener. He does not have enough money, yet somehow manages to get to where he wants to go, often by ingenious if unscrupulous means. His encounters with the literati are detailed for the edification of his readers. In his writing he has a proclivity for scattering random metaphors around with abandon, taking inspiration from the works being discussed at the event he is attending.
The book is laugh out loud funny. Small incidents, such as when he adds the friendly dog to his phone contacts list and subsequently texts it, are dropped into each chapter as easily as his discussions on what each author is wearing. The random musings are quirky, sometimes surreal, always perceptive.
Books are for everyone, including an all but friendless, drunk gardener who is not just socially inept but clearly bizarre. His encounters and conversations with the great and the good are awkward and hilarious in equal measure. I was torn between sympathising with those who had the misfortune to meet him, and his underlying loneliness and desire to fit into their world.
This is a light hearted read that will also provide plenty of food for thought. More than anything though it is consistently funny in an offbeat way that should appeal to those who do not take themselves too seriously. I laughed at Francis and I laughed at myself for harbouring some of the thoughts he showed to be ridiculous. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and hope that I never have to deal with anyone like its protagonist.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Galley Beggar Press.