If Toronto author Brad Cotton becomes a famous writer, I’ll be able to say I read his debut novel, A Work in Progress, before he hit it big. If not, I can still say A Work in Progress is a humorous and thoughtful novel that shows a lot of promise and made me curious about his next book (Boundless).
In A Work in Progress, Danny Bayle is suffering from long-term writer’s block – unable to write anything after publishing a first novel four years earlier.
My name is Danny Bayle, I’m twenty-eight years old, and it’s been four years since I completed my last novel – a novel that earned a unanimous reception from critics in that none of them bothered to read it. Too slim to use as a paperweight, too fat to serve as a fan in hot weather, my book could be considered a domestic success, but only for the reason that my mother kind of liked it.
Danny has also been depressed because his girlfriend Carah broke up with him after they had been together for five years and took off to live in France. Right around the same time, his grandfather died, and his mother moved to Arizona with her new husband, so Danny’s support system is down to his married best friend Casey and a couple of drinking buddies. At the start of the book, Danny vows to stop wallowing in miserable self-pity and gain some experience that would give him something to write about.
I know the self I present in this book may seem to you immature, even self-absorbed. And while the former might approach the mark a little more than I would like to admit, the latter, I assure you, is not my true nature. I am instead someone beset in life by things like love and guilt and sensitivity. But I was, as you will see, enduring an emotional state that required me to be a little selfish. I regret to say that selfish I was.
A straightforward coming-of-age story presented as a straightforward memoir, A Work in Progress doesn’t throw in postmodern tricks, unreliable narrators, or other literary gimmicks to put a twist on having the main character be a writer. Brad Cotton plays it straight; Danny says he’s going to experience new things, and he does (from one-night stands to making new friends to learning to deal with his grief.) Personally I would have liked more about writing because I’m a sucker for books about writers, but, of course, Danny’s writer’s block means he’s not doing any writing during the course of the story.
With a first-person narrator of about the same age as the author, readers will inevitably wonder how autobiographical the novel is. Not at all, says Brad in this humorous interview/guest post at Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile. If you head over there by April 23, you can enter a giveaway to win an e-book of A Work in Progress.
You may read a longer sample of A Work in Progress at the author’s Web site here.
A Work in ProgressCotton, Brad
Now or Never Publishing
234 pp., soft.
Disclosure: I received a copy of A Work in Progress from the author for review.