Scenes from the Life of a Best-selling Author

Michael Krüger

translated from the German by Karen Leeder
Harvill Press 2002
A book review by Danny Yee © 2003
A best-selling author whose family saga is also the family industry — until his publisher gives him a pet that grows to gigantic proportions and takes over his life.
"The not inconsiderable revenue from book sales is divided among my family. Any living family member with a major role receives up to 2 per cent of the domestic revenue per book while those with minor roles get half of that. If a family member is presented in a particularly unfavourable light, a special compensatory tariff is agreed, up to 4 per cent of the accrued book-club revenues at home."
A bibliomanic, aunt-pecked Uncle who is writing the definitive history of misprints.
"[H]e wanted to demonstrate that the entire history of the world in written form was a misunderstanding that rested on misprints. With a meaningful gesture in the direction of the four-metre long blue-bound Complete Works of Marx and Engels, which was bristling with page after page of slips of paper, he claimed to be able to prove that the accumulation of misprints in successive editions had resulted in a political superstructure which was destined for imminent collapse."
A spoof study which examines the relationship between alcohol consumption and literary output, across the EU.
"Moderation is all-important, however. For it stands to reason that those literary critics who are heavy drinkers and have never finished a book in their lives are socially beyond the pale — although, as we know only too well, the number in this category is increasing daily. Whereas literary critics who read a great deal but never touch a drop are, thank goodness, still a minority."

These are just three of Krüger's inventions in the dozen stories in Scenes from the Life of a Best-selling Author. Books and the book industry are a recurring theme — Krüger himself is a publisher as well as a writer — as are large and eccentric families. Some of the stories are twists on the fairy tale; others seem inspired by the theatre of the absurd. All are light-hearted, with at most a sliver of the sinister, and their humour tends towards the dry and academic. In a larger collection this might have palled, but a dozen stories in 120 pages makes for a pleasant diversion.

January 2003

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%T Scenes from the Life of a Best-selling Author
%A Krüger, Michael
%M German
%F Leeder, Karen
%I Harvill Press
%D 2002
%O hardcover
%G ISBN 1860468632
%P 119pp