Friday, November 6, 2015

Review: "Arts & Entertainment" by Christopher Beha

From its colorful humorous cover to even its somewhat wacky plotline, I was not prepared for the dark story that lay within Christopher Beha’s sophomore novel, Arts & Entertainment. It doesn’t cover any new ground or lets us know anything we don’t already know about the prevalence of celebrity culture and the idea that fame equals success, but it does so brutality and without remorse. It happens quickly and effectively after the main character’s fatal decision made out of desperation, and I was surprised how enveloping and affecting it was as the story progressed to absurd heights. Some will be turned off by it, and I do admit it happens too quickly, the feelings I have about that I will talk about later, but there is something at the heart of this novel that is very truthful, even though it does not speak to the greatest humanity as to offer. The main character is failed actor and drama teacher Eddie Hartley, who harbors deep feelings of self-loathing for his inability to be a successful actor. To make matters worse, his wife, Susan, cannot get pregnant, and they don’t have the funds to have a test tube baby. He finds what he thinks is the answer, when one of his former friends puts him in touch with a nefarious owner of a TMZ like website, so he can sell a sex tape he made with his ex-girlfriend, who is now a big TV star. He makes the sale, and soon his life becomes a funhouse of paparazzi, half-truths, no truths and total annihilation of what he holds dear. As I said, the change in tone happens rather quickly, and I feel it holds a lower opinion of the general public than I’m comfortable with, but it balances this out with a personal story of Eddie as he tries his best to improve his life. It’s an emotional story for sure, with an ominous ending that ends this book on a positive note for reader, but maybe not for the characters. It’s something you’ve for sure seen before, but it is done very well and with a lot of heart. 

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