Friday, September 6, 2019

Review: Congratulations, Who Are You Again? by Harrison Scott Key

If you ever write anything that you share with others, people will likely tell you that you should write a book or you should get whatever snippet they've read published. But people generally have no concept of what writing a book (never mind the quality), getting it to a publishable state, and then, miracle of miracles, getting it traditionally published actually takes. It's not easy. And it can take years. If it ever happens at all. Harrison Scott Key's humorous memoir Congratulations, Who Are You Again? details the long and complicated journey he took to being a published author and while his experience is his alone, it is also universal enough to serve as a cautionary tale for those who think that writing a book is their ticket to fame and riches. Writing is a calling, publishing is simply a happy (read not guaranteed) outcome for that calling.

Key's first memoir, The World's Largest Man, focuses on his relationship with his father. It won The Thurber Prize for American Humor. So readers might be forgiven for thinking that Key had it all figured out as an author. This, his second memoir, shows just how hard he worked on that book to make it funny, to make it appear effortless, and even to get it down on the page in the first place. He knows that his first book has not only been published but has been successful by many measures as he's writing this one but he doesn't hesitate to pull back the curtain and really detail the grueling process, including harboring a long held dream that often felt out of reach or unrealistic, eleven years of writing around the other important things in his life (family, job, etc.), and the inside view of getting a book published including the marketing and touring, readings and interviews after the book comes out. Key is open and honest about his journey but also delightfully self-deprecating as he presents the highs and lows. He shares things about his personal process and about his private life, the highs and lows. He is a talented writer, truly able to make a reader laugh in places, often just as his numerous setbacks threaten to overwhelm and he balances both struggle and hope carefully. This is a testament to chasing a dream, nurturing it and cursing it but ultimately staying true to it. Key may not be a famous author, not immediately recognizable or a household name, but he's been successful at this difficult thing called writing for sure. Recommended for budding authors and those who are interested in an inside view of the publishing world from the author's perspective.

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review.

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