Short Take: The Plot

In general, I shy away from contemporary psychological thrillers. But Jean Hanff Korelitz’s new book, The Plot, initially intrigued me with a killer premise and being about writers writing, a favorite of mine. When Cindy read it and thought it might be one of the smallish category of books we both like, I decided to give it a try. The Plot centers on Jake, an author whose debut was a success he has struggled ever since to match. Now, depressed and teaching at a low-residency and even lower status MFA program, he meets Evan, an annoyingly arrogant student in his class. Evan reluctantly tells him in confidence about the premise of the novel he’s working on, and Jake knows Evan will have a hit on his hands. However, after several years pass and Jake never sees Evan’s book come out, he discovers that Evan has died without publishing. How can Jake resist using Evan’s plot to finally write himself back into the spotlight? Jake thinks he’s gotten away with it, and is on the Seattle leg of his never-ending book tour more than a year later, when the first threatening email shows up in his in-box. Jean Hanff Korelitz has an insightful dry humor as she describes the ups and downs of Jake’s writing journey, and gives the reader an inside look at the publishing industry. I did try to unravel the mystery as I was reading, but Korelitz cleverly kept me guessing until close to the end. I also liked that excerpts from Jake’s novel, Crib, are interspersed in the second half so the reader gets a story within a story. The Plot was my “Mystery or Crime” Book Bingo square and I might give contemporary thrillers more of a chance in the future. This would also be a great book club book because there’s so much to discuss!

— Lori

SAL Book Bingo 2021

If the temperatures over the last week (and the ones to come this weekend) hadn’t announced the arrival of summer, the 2021 Seattle Arts and Lectures Book Bingo cards showing up in our bookstore mail certainly did!

The tradition of SAL Book Bingo always brings me back, as I suspect it does for many, to the joys of participating in whatever summer reading program our local library cooked up. My elementary school years were spent in Santa Barbara, and many, many summer hours were invested browsing in the kids section of the downtown public library. I remember how cool it felt in the building, walking in from the summer heat, and the daily newspapers on these wooden rods, and riding the escalator up to the floor where the kids section lived. There was always the distinctive aroma of books that have been touched by numerous hands and carpet meant for hard wear. Each summer there was some program or other to encourage kids to read, not that I ever needed any encouragement. But I was happy enough to go on and on to the children’s librarian, Bea, about the plot of whatever book I’d written down to earn my sticker. The prize, which I’m pretty sure was a bookmark, was beside the point. I wanted the bookmark, sure, but I also wanted the feeling of a task completed. All the lines filled in, all the stickers in their little spots.

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