Who Should Read It:
Fans of Mystery Thrillers
Why Should We Read It:
A unique twist of the "Who 'dun' it?" genre, focusing on copyright infringement!
What Will We Learn:
Sometimes it might all be worth it if we see it through until the end.
"What if I could plagiarize, and guarantee that I could get away with it? "
I love reading, and I have enough writing skills to maintain this blog (with 10 views per post!). I've even read about half of James N. Frey's How to Write a Damn Good Novel. Have I ever thought of writing a book? Yes! This, of course, is easier said than done. In addition to having artistic passion and creativity, authors also need to understand the technical aspects of tight storytelling and character development. I might have an unbeatable idea about a young man in a galaxy far, far away who redeems his father and defeats an empire; it doesn't mean I have the skillset to make this story compelling and commercially successful. I also need to consider the possibility that my idea might already be taken! But what if I don't care if I am taking George Lucas's idea? What if I could plagiarize, and guarantee that I could get away with it? This premise is explored thoroughly in Jean Hanff Korelitz's mystery thriller The Plot.
"... readers [also] get a crash-course introduction into the competitive world of publishing."
The protagonist in The Plot is named Jacob Finch Bonner, a fictional author with chronic writer's block after receiving critical acclaim with his very first published novel. Through his eyes, readers get a crash-course introduction into the competitive world of publishing. If we are struggling with our stories, we could pay to participate in a week-long "writer's retreat" with mentors and other aspiring authors in secluded camaraderie. Or, if we truly believe in our potential, we could pursue a Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) degree in an academic setting. These programs are expensive, especially for fulltime writers like Jacob who lack steady royalty income. The "struggling artist/author" trope in The Plot might just be dramatization, and it obviously sets up the motive for Jacob to plagiarize. Nonetheless, reading The Plot just to better understand the creative and financial pressures of a (fictional) aspiring author was time well-spent.
"Who gets to own 'a story' anyways?"
The Plot would not be much of a story if Jacob Finch Bonner plagiarized a story, got rich, and lived happily ever after. In any Damn Good Novel, the protagonist has to struggle and has to have a lot to lose. For Bonner, it is not just his reputation and money at stake; it is his very moral fiber and sanity. Is Bonner's acclaimed novel simple plagiarism, or is it actually creative inspiration? Are the stories we tell ourselves the full truth, or are they (as an old Jedi Master might say) only ever true from a certain point of view? Who gets to own "a story" anyways? And who is the person who is so bent on destroying Jacob Bonner anonymously? Why not confront him publicly and in court if Jacob was truly guilty of plagiarism? Each of these questions fight for supremacy within Jacob's mind, and it makes this mystery thriller so compelling- if he can figure out the correct answer to the correct question, he can truly be set free.
"...a good old-fashion mystery within a mystery..."
At its core, The Plot is a good old-fashion mystery within a mystery. Refreshingly, the mysteries revolve around copyright infringement instead of the usual family jewels, heirlooms, and/or inheritance! Would I ever plagiarize if I had the opportunity to get away with it? I would have to have Jacob Finch Bonner's unique mix of desperation and self-delusion to be tempted to even consider it. He is a realistic character who is just relatable enough for the reader to care about, and just bold enough to make the decisions that drive the novel to its truly surprising ending. The Plot is a Damn Good Novel. Just don't spoil the ending- you're only going to read it once, so enjoy the ride!