Like most aspiring authors, I’ve read a lot of interviews with famous writers. One of the things they continually bring up is the following advice: focus on the work, and not on whether you’re going to become famous. The obvious but never-discussed subtext of this advice is that aspiring authors spend a lot of time focusing on becoming famous. I’m not going to argue with this.

So I’ve made a list:


I want to become famous.


I want to be the youngest writer ever to be featured on the cover of Time Magazine.


I want to be invited to the White House and, after signing the President’s First Edition copy of my novel, be asked to curate a private presidential reading list.


I want Harper’s to dedicate an entire issue to publishing a 45,000-word novella they commission from me which addresses themes of guilt, potlatch economies, and “colonialism of the mind.”


I want to have young, aspiring authors send me letters of devotion charged with unintentional sexual undercurrents, and to respond with quick little notes full of dramatic, condescending statements such as, “If you can do anything other than write, and retain your sanity, do it.”


I want to investigate every single editor and agent who has ever rejected my work, find out exactly what I could say to make them feel terrible about themselves, say those things via private, third-party phone calls, and then parade around town with my critically acclaimed book, publicly denouncing them by name.


I want U2 to give me VIP tickets to their next world tour, and have Bono dedicate “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” to me, but then, when he’s singing the chorus, sing instead “I finally HAVE found what I’m looking for,” while holding up a copy of my novel, battered and dog-eared from being read aloud in their private tour jet countless times to The Edge.


I want to receive a phone call in the middle of the night from Thomas Pynchon, who will say that my book changed his life, and offer to meet me somewhere publically for a photo so he’ll have visual proof that I signed his copy, to which he’ll return again and again in his senescence when he can no longer trust his memory, each time reliving the moment as though it just happened.


I want George Lucas to make my book into a film, completely botch the job, and then hold a press conference at which he publically apologizes to me, my readership, and to the Written Word itself, then offers to recall every copy of the film from theaters, and announces that he’ll be surrendering all creative control of the remake, instead putting every resource of LucasFilm toward a trilogy of the novel directed by, Wong Kar Wai, Werner Herzog, and Spike Jonze, respectively.


I want Us Weekly to publish a montage of pictures featuring me: 1) buying grapefruit at Whole Foods, 2) walking along the west side of Central Park on the way to a Style Through the Century So Far exhibit at the Guggenheim, laughing at something Jennifer Anniston is whispering in my ear while Lady Gaga wears an expression of mock-disgust, 3) tripping over paparazzi outside of Tom Robbins-owned underground speakeasy bar in the Lower East Side, while Tom Robbins himself passes me a joint and discretely mouths the words “Maui Waui” into a half-eaten bran muffin, and 4) holding up the last issue of Us Weekly with my face on the cover and giving a sincere thumbs-up, all under the headline, “Authors: they’re just like us!”


I want to spend years after my most popular, well-received novel working reclusively on something I won’t describe and will only refer to as “the big book,” which when published will be so far removed from expectations it will be considered offensive, even blasphemous, and will prompt nationally choreographed book-burning events whereat defenders will rally against detractors, confrontations escalate into violent gang-wars, and the entire clash result in a temporary police-state that the UN will denounce, encouraging trade sanctions by the European Union. After watching in horror as our social systems collapse, I want to take to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and, with the use of an elaborate PowerPoint presentation, diffuse the turmoil by demonstrating that there is evidence in the text to support multiple perspectives, and that in fact it is simultaneously a work of classical patriotism and a book of protest. I’ll convince everyone to go back to their families and loved ones, but to not return to “business as usual,” rather to use this as an opportunity for personal reflection, social advancement, and spiritual enlightenment.


I want to dabble in genre fiction after I’ve accomplished everything I can with literary work, and to write the most outrageously cunning whodunit that people will spontaneously begin to both laugh and weep once the killer is revealed, and about which God, once I’ve passed away and ascended to the area in Heaven reserved for great writers, will take me aside, looking quite shaken, and say in a low whisper, “I didn’t see that one coming.”

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SHYA SCANLON is the Fiction Reviews Editor for The Nervous Breakdown. Scanlon's work has appeared in the Mississippi Review, Literary Review, New York Quarterly, Guernica Magazine, Opium Magazine, and others. His book of prose poetry, In This Alone Impulse, was published by Noemi Press in January, 2010. In 2009, his novel Forecast was serialized online across 42 journals and literary blogs as part of the Forecast 42 Project. Forecast will be published by Flatmancrooked in December, 2010. He received his MFA from Brown University, where he was awarded the John Hawkes Prize in Fiction. Please visit him at www.shyascanlon.com.

3 responses to “I Want To Be Famous”

  1. […] *** One of my first destinations after moving to Jersey City was a TNB Literary Experience. Shya Scanlon read about fame. Kimberly M. Wetherell played hostess with the mostest (though I can’t seem to find the essay she […]

  2. […] SHYA SCANLON is The Fame. […]

  3. Richard says:

    Amen, brother, amen.

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