Publish This Book by Stephen Markley - PPP

I purchased this book hoping for a funny and irreverent story lambasting the gatekeepers of the publishing world and providing insight into triumphing over them. Any aspiring writer can tell you about the mountains of rejection letters they’ve received, so I was hoping this book would shed light on the later stages of the process and what leads to success.

It did not.

Instead, it’s a long-winded, massively repetitive, massively self-absorbed tale about the author’s life up until this point. Granted, however, there are well-written, poignant moments weaved in – the pivotal story at the end about his first love was particularly powerful – which make certain sections well worth reading.

But in the end, I could not get past the repetition and self-involvement. Markley tries to own up to this in a self-deprecating/endearing way, but he misses the point.

There are countless conversations where the author tells people that he’s writing a book about trying to publish a book and the person asks what’s in the book and he says, “This, this is in the book.” That’s cute the first couple times and after that it’s tedious.

But the unpardonable crime is the self-involvement. Nay, the narcissism.

There is nothing wrong with a well-written memoir where you are of course the central character. Self-absorbed? Sure, but every single one of us is self-absorbed. It’s an easily forgiven offense.

The problem is that the majority of this book amounts to an exercise in self-felatio.

Markley includes countless instances of friends, family, colleagues, and professors telling him what a talented, fantastic writer he is. Essentially, he’s telling us that he is an awesome writer. Congratulations!

Further, much of the humor that he writes which he and everyone around him find so hysterical follow this pattern:

“Something something something,” she said.
“Something very funny,” I replied.
She threw back her head and laughed so hard that people in the restaurant stopped eating to look at her.

It boggles my mind that Markley has not figured out that this self-congratulatory style of writing is off-putting at best.

Having said that, Markley does seem to be a talented writer when he’s not writing about how talented his is. He can string together sentences that are both poetic and insightful, and the section at the end that I mentioned above is particularly well-written, poignant, and brave.

I will gladly purchase and eagerly read a story by him that’s not about him, and I don’t think he’ll have a problem finding a publisher for it.

2.5 pearls rounded up to 3.