Reviews

About the Author by John Colapinto

Phoebe Kate Foster

In Cal Cunningham, Colapinto has created a character so urbanely amoral and artlessly adept at deception of self and others that he could have stepped out of the pages of 'The Portrait of Dorian Gray'.


About the Author

Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 254
Price: $25.00 U.S
Author: John Colapinto
Amazon
"Every artist is a cannibal,
every poet is a thief.
They all kill for inspiration
And sing about their grief."
— Bono, U2

In About the Author, a psychological suspense novel that explores the gray area between persona and anima, John Colapinto gives the reader a peek into the high-powered world of commercial book publishing and introduces two of the most unlikely apartment mates since Felix and Oscar.

Cal Cunningham is a roguishly charming writer wannabe who's moved to New York City with grandiose visions of a meteoric ascent to the top of the bestseller list and a niche in the upper echelons of Manhattan's literary elite. However, in two years he hasn't managed to put one word down on paper. His time is consumed working as a stock boy in a bookstore during the day, womanizing at night and lying to people about the upcoming publication of his nonexistent Great American Novel. Moreover, he suffers from a permanent case of writer's block that he blames on his relentlessly dreary roomie. Stewart Church is a law student and is as dull as Cal is dynamic. Stewart is a dateless dweeb, a textbook-guzzling grind, a creative cipher with no life of his own apart from casebooks and a computer:

. . . Stewart did not fit my . . . idea of the kind of person I would end up living with in Manhattan. I was an aspiring author and thus viewed my every action and utterance with an eye to how they would appear when fixed in imperishable print. As such, I considered myself to inhabit a higher plane of existence than people like Stewart. He so clearly belonged to the trudging armies of nonartists, of mere human beings: the workaday drones who live out their unobjectionable lives, then pass, unremembered . . . into oblivion.

So great is Cal's disdain of Stewart that their only point of regular social interaction is "the weekly de-briefing session," during which, under Stewart's meticulous attorneylike questioning, Cal recounts in vivid detail his recent sexual conquests. Cal convinces himself that these salacious monologues of his are the "rough drafts" of the literary masterpiece he isn't getting around to writing and are satisfying his roomie's "sad and slightly squalid need" for a "vicarious taste of life."

But there's more to Stewart than meets the eye, as Cal begins to learn. His nerdy co-renter is actually a "closet writer" -- and a remarkably gifted one, at that. He's written a rough draft of a novel, which Cal discovers while he's snooping around in Stewart's desk. It's not just good, it's brilliant -- much better than anything Cal could write. And to Cal's horror, Almost Like Suicide is about him, exposing him in stunningly crafted prose as the dissolute slacker he is, complete with word-for-word transcriptions of the weekly monologues that he'd regaled his roommate with for nearly three years. Cal is outraged: "Stewart had . . . snitched my life."

Cal plans to take legal action to prevent the book from ever being published. Before he can do so, though, Stewart is killed in a freak traffic accident. Cal, ever looking for a fast-track to fame, shrewdly reassesses, gets over his indignation at Stewart's unflattering literary portrayal of him and decides to jumpstart his career by publishing Almost Like Suicide under his own name. The book is a runaway bestseller that makes Cal a rich man and a lionized celebrity, but success comes at a high price and sets off a bizarre and terrifying chain of events that turns the American Dream into a nightmare.

Cal quickly becomes like a circus juggler, walking a tightrope while trying to keep all the plates spinning on their sticks at the same time. His initial deceit rapidly tangles itself into a vast web of prevarications, misrepresentations and connivances as complicated as a Gordian knot. In the endless effort to keep anyone from discovering that he is a literary fraud, his moral compromises multiply, as do the rationalizations and justifications for his bad behavior and wrongdoings. He's occasionally plagued by conscience, but fear of exposure easily overcomes any scruples he might like to fancy having.

Worse still, the ghost of Stewart haunts him at every turn. The need to make sure that no one who knew Stewart ever read the rough draft of Almost Like Suicide drags Cal deeper and deeper into the secret life of his former roommate. When a blackmailer emerges from the sordid shadows of Cal's own past, armed with the hard evidence to prove the popular author is a plagiarist, Cal is drawn into a murderous conspiracy that leads to a shocking climax at the book's end.

In Cal Cunningham, Colapinto has created a character so urbanely amoral and artlessly adept at deception of self and others that he could have stepped out of the pages of The Portrait of Dorian Gray. With every smooth move, subtle twisting of truth, and bold parry-and-thrust to maintain his advantage, Cal both shocks and delights the reader simultaneously. He is, without doubt, one of the most charming and appealing bad boys to grace a novel in many a year.

Colapinto has also pulled off a remarkable literary feat by making his protagonist a man who dies on page 25. Stewart Church, by his very palpable absence, dominates the book until the very last sentence as his hidden life, secret loves and unfulfilled dreams are revealed throughout the course of the novel. By the close of the book, the irony of the title has become clear. Despite Cal Cunningham's narcissistic and self-obsessed narration, the story is ultimately about Stewart Church, the real author, who simply refuses to pass unremembered into that oblivion that his poseur of a roommate foresaw as the fate of the "nonartistic."

About the Author is written with a brisk elegance. There are no superfluous words in these 250-odd pages (a rather short novel by today's standards), but the descriptive passages retain a remarkable richness that perfectly captures the mood, the scene, the emotion at hand. Colapinto's chatty narrator Cal's frequent digression into intriguing discussions with himself on ethics, existentialism, psychology, artistic integrity, the creative process, and the criminal mind lend a pleasantly cerebral quality to this suspense story.

The proliferation of highly publicized plagiarism scandals in the last few years involving well-known novelists, as well as historians such as Alex Haley, Stephen Ambrose, and Doris Kearns Goodwin, makes About the Author a particularly timely and interesting book on the motives -- and mistakes -- that keep literary fraud a perennially popular story in the news.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

Next Page
Related Articles Around the Web
Film

Subverting the Romcom: Mercedes Grower on Creating 'Brakes'

Noel Fielding (Daniel) and Mercedes Grower (Layla) (courtesy Bulldog Film Distribution)

Brakes plunges straight into the brutal and absurd endings of the relationships of nine couples before travelling back in time to discover the moments of those first sparks of love.

The improvised dark comedy Brakes (2017), a self-described "anti-romcom", is the debut feature of comedienne and writer, director and actress Mercedes Grower. Awarded production completion funding from the BFI Film Fund, Grower now finds herself looking to the future as she develops her second feature film, alongside working with Laura Michalchyshyn from Sundance TV and Wren Arthur from Olive productions on her sitcom, Sailor.

Keep reading... Show less

People aren't cheering Supergirl on here. They're not thanking her for her heroism, or even stopping to take a selfie.

It's rare for any hero who isn't Superman to gain the kind of credibility that grants them the implicitly, unflinching trust of the public. In fact, even Superman struggles to maintain that credibility and he's Superman. If the ultimate paragon of heroes struggles with maintaining the trust of the public, then what hope does any hero have?

Keep reading... Show less

The Paraguay-born, Brooklyn-based indie pop artist MAJO wraps brand new holiday music for us to enjoy in a bow.

It's that time of year yet again, and with Christmastime comes Christmas tunes. Amongst the countless new covers of holiday classics that will be flooding streaming apps throughout the season from some of our favorite artists, it's always especially heartening to see some original writing flowing in. Such is the gift that Paraguay-born, Brooklyn-based indie pop songwriter MAJO is bringing us this year.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image