Synopses & Reviews
A NOVEL OF AN IGNOMINIOUS FALL, THE
RISE TO INFAMY, AND LIFE AFTER BOTH.
It is the summer of 1998, and Stephen Glass is a young magazine journalist whose work is gaining more and more acclaim -- until a rival magazine tells Glass's editor that it suspects one of his stories is fabricated. As his editor sorts out the truth, Glass is busy inventing it -- spinning rich and complex blends of fact and fiction, and exploiting the gray world in between.
But Glass is caught. His fabulism is uncovered and his career instantly unravels. Worse, his editor learns that it's not the first time. Soon, a long history of invention, passed off as journalism, emerges.
Glass suddenly becomes a household name -- an emblem of hubris and a flashpoint for Americans' distrust and dislike of the press. The media is consumed with the story: Once the young man who had been known for mastering the "takedown" article, Glass now becomes the one every journalist wants to take even further down. Once the hunter, Glass becomes the hunted -- the story of the year.
Glass responds to this agonizing public scrutiny with a self-imposed exile, first near Chicago with his family and then in the anonymous suburbs of Washington, D.C. There, he begins a long personal struggle with his misdeeds, working out his own answers to the questions of why he fabricated, how he can learn to stop lying, and whether, at age twenty-five, he has destroyed his life irrevocably.
Glass encounters a world far stranger than his own fabrications -- one populated by eccentric coworkers, ailing animals, angry masseuses, sexy librarians, competitive bingo players, synchronized swimmers, a soulful stripper, and a mysterious guardian angel who dresses only in purple. Meanwhile, Glass is chased by marauding journalists whose desperation and ruthlessness manage to match even his own.
As he dodges his pursuers, Glass grasps at straws only to find that, wondrously, they sometimes hold. Despite himself, he rediscovers the Judaism he'd left far behind in Hebrew school, and falls helplessly in love with a young woman who turns out to have her own shameful past.
In the end, The Fabulist is as much about family, friendship, religion, and love -- about getting through somehow, even when it seems impossible -- as it is about reality and fantasy. At once hilarious and harrowing, The Fabulist is one of the year's most provocative novels.
"The Fabulist is not much of a novel....Where the real Stephen Glass managed to perpetrate some semi-plausible inventions as fact, the Stephen Glass of The Fabulist specializes in thuddingly broad characterizations of persons and events that would only get by the world's most oafish editors....The book's alleged comic turns are strictly groan material, delivered chiefly at the expense of the people Glass imagines as social inferiors." Chris Lehmann, The Washington Post
"By its very existence, The Fabulist is a strong argument for some form of socialism, since only the profit motive could induce the thoughtful executives at Simon & Schuster...to offer a contract to a man who is almost universally reviled for deceiving his editors and his readers, for inventing ugly details about real people and for perpetrating a sort of burlesque on the whole idea of reported journalism by skipping the truth part." Erich Eichman, The Wall Street Journal
"Even when it comes to reckoning with his own sins, [Glass] is still incapable of nonfiction. The careerism of his repentance is repulsively consistent with the careerism of his crimes." Leon Wieseltier, The New Republic
"The publication of this book is a scandal....I didn't think I'd have one sent to me, free of charge, as a review copy. My first instinct...was to burn it. I've never felt that way about a book before. I once leafed through a copy of Mein Kampf...and didn't feel the urge. Yet it was the first idea to pop into my mind when I held The Fabulist in my hands." John J. Miller, The National Review
"If Stephen Glass were a great novelist, the question of forgiveness would answer itself. We would be too caught up in the narrative, too dazzled by the writing, to quibble about fraud and journalistic ethics and appropriate penance....The Fabulist, however, we can easily do without; and unless Mr. Glass' talent grows tenfold, novel No. 2 will be more of the same." Adam Begley, The New York Observer
"The Fabulist is surely one of the strangest books I've ever read....Like Steve himself...it is coy, flirtatious, manipulative even as it pretends to candor....Is The Fabulist interesting for nonmedia addicts? It does contain sporadic moments of clever invention....But one expects such clever touches from Steve Glass; they're just the sort of thing he used to make up in his articles. I suspect that those with more remove from his tale than I have will find this all a bit thin gruel." Richard Blow, Salon.com
"The Fabulist [is] a flimsy novel at best, filled with broad caricatures and humor that tends to fall flat....[T]here's a nasty streak of self-pity that surfaces now and again that mortally wounds any sympathy Glass tries to build for himself....It's hard to know if Glass has any novel-writing talent: The Fabulist lies too close to the truth to tell. It is fair to say the lure of the book fades pretty quickly..." Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald
"Characters are one-dimensional, the plot is forced and scenes of comic relief have an eerie, macabre feel. And ultimately, the protagonist is simply unlikable. Not so surprisingly, you just don't trust his motives. The biggest problem with this novel is that it's impossible to read it as a work of pure fiction. You find yourself looking for clues, insights, anything that helps make sense of the case of Stephen Glass." Teresa K. Weaver, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A rollicking, riveting tour de force that does for the media business what "Primary Colors" did for politics, and promises to be one of the most talked about and controversial books of the year.
About the Author
Formerly a journalist, Stephen Glass is currently at work on his second novel.
Table of Contents
pt. 1. Downfall -- pt. 2. Debacle -- pt. 3. Disappearance -- pt. 4. Dossier -- pt. 5. Desperation -- pt. 6. Dâenouement.