Read a book over the weekend -- Mentor, by Tom Grimes. Link is to Amazon. Here's the New York Times review. Want to recommend the book to anyone who's a writer, and also tell you not to read it. The book is about the relationship between Grimes and Frank Conroy, a writer who became Grimes's friend and mentor at the Iowa Writers Workshop. But mostly the book is about the frustrating life of a writer on the road to publication and then the road afterwards when publication doesn't lead quite where the writer hopes it would. The first half of the book is engaging in only good ways -- it's some of the best writing about being a writer that I've ever read, for sure. The second half of the book is kind of like torture, but it's torture that I couldn't stop. I had to read through to the end, even while saying -- out loud to my wife while reading -- that no one could read this and still want to be a writer, that this book is the argument for never trying to make a career out of this.
The Times review is pretty spot-on --
What “Mentor” is really about, though, is the slow-motion derailment of Mr. Grimes’s own once promising literary career, a process that took his pride before it took his sanity. This is a book about striding up to the brink of success, only to have success disembowel you with a dull steak knife, bow, and then skip away, cackling.
Don’t give this forthright and bewildered book to the would-be writer in your life. It might make him or her climb a tall tree and leap from it. You don’t need that on your hands. In any case, I suspect many aspiring writers will find it on their own, and read it between the cracks in their fingers.
Nevertheless, it's not often enough lately that I read a book and feel compelled to blog about it-- compelled to talk about it-- compelled to tell other people to read it. So, if you have a stronger stomach than I do for reading about the tortured life of writers without it bringing you down, you'd be doing yourself a favor to check it out.