Potboiler is a term used in the literary world to describe a writer who only writes to pay the bills. They’re not writing for the love of the craft, per se. It’s like doing that major motion picture so that you make enough money for the studio and they let you write your bare-bones budget little indie film. A potboiler is written by a hack. Some of you may call many of Stephen King’s books potboilers. Either way.
Jesse Kellerman’s Potboiler is the opposite: It’s a witty satire about a hack writer, while cheekily commenting astutely and hilariously on the entire genre of cheap spy thriller novels and popular literary fiction.
Jesse Kellerman is not only an Orthodox Jew, but comes from a family of rich novelists. His mother is Faye Kellerman, and his father is Jonathan Kellerman. Literary
Having never read any of Kellerman’s previous works, I was able to read this book with a very open mind. This strategy (or lack thereof) did not disappoint. From the start Kellerman’s protagonist, Arthur Pfefferkorn, is crippled by his own neuroticism, perfectionist attitude, and fears. Throught the book Pfefferkorn goes throughout life wistfully wondering if everyday occurrences can become a hit novel. This is not unlike the brain of a comedian, dissecting the miniscule events of everyday life to achieve success and profit at their craft.
I’m also not one to read the works of Stephen King and the like (not hating, I swear). However, I can only assume that Kellerman wrote 100+ chapters into his 300 page book to poke fun at the major novel and the idea that mass literary consumption equates short easily digestible chapters. Or people really like to read on the toilet.
Some of my favorite lines from the novel:
-”He grabbed Savory around the neck and wrung him like a chicken on the Eve of Yom Kippur.”
- “It also accounted for the poem’s sustained popularity…[it] possessed a quality essential for great literature, one that ensured it could be read by every successive generation and appreciated anew: it was meaningless.”
[Ed note: Some examples include anything written by Shakespeare, and the Bible.]
If you get the chance to read Potboiler (or buy it on Amazon), It will not disappoint. I’m going to give this book an imaginary rating of Three Bukowskis and one Oscar Wilde. That sounds pretty good to me.