Amy Falls Down
By Jincy Willett
(St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne, $24.99, 336 pages)

Who is this author?

It takes a clever author to title a book “Winner of the National Book Award,” and Jincy Willett certainly is one savvy scribe. Author of “Jenny and the Jaws of Life,”  “The Writing Class” and the aforementioned “Winner of the National Book Award: A Novel of Fame, Honor, and Really Bad Weather,” she also has published short stories in Cosmopolitan, McSweeney’s Quarterly and other magazines, and she frequently reviews for The New York Times Book Review. Willett lives in San Diego, teaches writing workshops in person and online, and has a very amusing, if occasionally rude and raunchy, website: www.jincywillet.com. Go there at your own peril.

What is this book about?

Amy Gallup, at 22, was named as a promising young writer. Some 40 years later, alas, that promise has not been kept. Somewhat of a hermit, Amy lives with her basset hound, Alphonse, in California, and one morning, some hours before she is due to sit for an interview with a clueless young reporter, Amy falls down in her garden and whacks her head. A concussion results, but Amy doesn’t realize that. And so she gives the interview with her censoring filter not operating, and what she says is so incendiary about writing and other authors that the interview goes viral, and whaddya know, Amy is suddenly and unintentionally famous. Soon she’s the center of a media circus, traveling here and there and speaking her mind, damn the torpedoes. It seems that one misstep has profoundly changed her life. This delightful premise gives Willett, who first created Amy in her mystery, “The Writing Class,” another chance to skewer the pretensions of writers and critics, a big fat target if there ever was one. Happily for readers, Amy’s aim is true.

Why you’ll like it:

It’s happened to us all, I am sure. One little mistake or inadvertent word or action, and a domino-effect of unexpected, uncontrollable consequences ensues. As Amy says in this novel:

“You turn a corner and beasts break into arias, gunfire erupts, waking a hundred families, starting a hundred different conversations. You crack your head open and three thousand miles away a stranger with Asperger’s jump-starts your career.”  This book is a fascinating exploration of accidents and aftermaths, peppered pleasantly by an acerbic look at the excesses of literary suckup-itude. “Amy Falls Down” will perk up your summer reading.

What others are saying:

Publishers Weekly says: “Willett’s hilarious follow-up to “The Writing Class” pulls no punches when it comes to current literary trends. Amy Gallup was once heralded as a fresh voice in fiction, but with her novels now long out of print, she’s content with a quiet, anonymous life of leading workshops, keeping lists of great-sounding titles for stories she’ll never write, and maintaining her sporadically updated blog. … while working in her garden, Amy trips and cold-cocks herself on a birdbath. Still reeling from the head injury hours later, she gives a loopy interview to a reporter working on a series of local author profiles. The result goes viral, and suddenly Amy is a hot commodity on the literary pundit trail. She couldn’t care less about being relevant or famous, which lends a refreshingly brutal honesty to her commentary on the radio, television, and lecture circuit. But her newfound notoriety also pushes Amy out of her comfort zone, forcing her to confront years of neuroses and an unexamined postwriting life. Willett uses her charmingly filterless heroine as a mouthpiece to slam a parade of thinly veiled literati and media personalities with riotous accuracy, but she balances the snark with moments of poignancy.

Says Library Journal: “Willett’s previous book, “The Writing Class,” introduced readers to the wonderfully acerbic author/creative writing teacher Amy Gallup. That novel was a regular whodunit, but this sequel is not in the mystery genre at all. Rather, it is a lovingly gentle but thorough skewering of the current literary world, the media surrounding it, and the “authors-as-brands” who often populate it. The novel opens with Amy falling and hitting her head on a birdbath. Long afraid of doctors and hospitals, she doesn’t immediately seek treatment but instead gives an interview to a local newspaper journalist—a young woman who’s featuring Amy in a “whatever happened to” article. (Amy’s debut novel at 22 was a tremendous success, but nothing in the resulting 40 years quite lived up to the potential promised by it.) Amy’s incoherent ramblings set off a chain of events featuring her as a straight talker surrounded by pretentiousness. Verdict:  Funny and whip-smart about the modern book world, Willett’s novel is also profound and touching on relationships, aging, and self-reflection. Absolutely recommended, whether or not you read “The Writing Class,” and especially if you’re a voracious reader or a writer, a publisher, a critic, or a book blogger.

“The endearingly bitter writer, Amy Gallup has happily isolated herself from the world spending the last two decades teaching and reviewing – she’s done a lot of thinking … but very little writing. On an unassuming morning, in her slippers, Amy trips in her backyard, goes head-over-heels, and into the side of a birdbath. The hospital clears her of head injury – so Amy returns home. When a local reporter shows up for a scheduled interview – Amy is not quite herself.  The article paints Amy as  the zen-goddess of writing, publishing … and life. Her bizarre interview was interpreted as the rambling of a true genius. But all that really happened was: Amy fell down! The next thing she knows, friends and fans are coming out of the woodwork. Suddenly Amy is on radio shows, keynoting a major publishing event, and guiding a local writers’ retreat.  But the strangest thing of all:  Amy starts to write.

“Readers witness Amy confront her past and present, and choose to take down the walls she so carefully wrote up around her.  “Amy Falls Down” is a novel both surprisingly heartwarming and a witty mirror into today’s publishing world – as only Jincy Willett could write.  A scathingly funny and wickedly humorous roman-a-clef by one of our most acclaimed literary humorists – about a bitterly uninspired writer who decides to change her life after a freak accident,” says Bookbrowse.com.

When is it available?

If you don’t fall down, you can pick this one up at the Downtown Hartford Public Library or its Mark Twain branch.

Do you have something to say about this book, this author or books in general? Please post your comments here and I will respond. Let’s get a good books conversation going!

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