Excerpt from The Plot by Jean Korelitz, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Plot

by Jean Korelitz

The Plot by Jean Korelitz X
The Plot by Jean Korelitz
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2021, 336 pages

    May 2022, 336 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Peggy Kurkowski
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

All Jacob Finch Bonner had ever wanted to be was a writer. Ever, ever, ever, all the way back to suburban Long Island, which was the last place on earth a serious artist of any kind ought to come from but where he, nonetheless, had been cursed to grow up, the only child of a tax attorney and a high school guidance counselor. Why he'd affixed his star to the forlorn little shelf in his local library marked AUTHORS FROM LONG ISLAND! was anyone's guess, but it did not pass unnoticed in the young writer's home. His father (the tax attorney) had been forceful in his objections (Writers didn't make money! Except Sidney Sheldon. Was Jake claiming he was the next Sidney Sheldon?) and his mother (the guidance counselor) had seen fit to remind him, constantly, of his mediocre-at-best PSAT score on the verbal side. (It was greatly embarrassing to Jake that he'd managed to do better on the math than the verbal.) These had been grievous challenges to overcome, but what artist was without challenges to overcome? He'd read stubbornly (and, it should be noted, already competitively, and with envy) throughout his childhood, departing the mandatory curriculum, leapfrogging the usual adolescent dross to vet the emerging field of his future rivals. Then off he had gone to Wesleyan to study creative writing, falling in with a tight group of fellow proto-novelists and short story writers who were just as insanely competitive as he was.

Many were the dreams of young Jacob Finch Bonner when it came to the fiction he would one day write. (The "Bonner," in point of fact, wasn't entirely authentic—Jake's paternal great-grandfather had substituted Bonner for Bernstein a solid century before—but neither was the "Finch," which Jake himself had added in high school as an homage to the novel that awakened his love of fiction.) Sometimes, with books he especially loved, he imagined that he had actually written them himself, and was giving interviews about them to critics or reviewers (always humble in his deflection of the interviewer's praise) or reading from them to large, avid audiences in a bookstore or some hall full of occupied seats. He imagined his own photograph on the back jacket flap of a hardcover (taking as his templates the already outdated writer-leaning-over-manual-typewriter or writer-with-pipe) and thought far too often about sitting at a table, signing copies for a long, coiling line of readers. Thank you, he would intone graciously to each woman or man. That's so kind of you to say. Yes, that's one of my favorites, too.

It wasn't precisely true that Jake never thought about the actual writing of his future fictions. He understood that books did not write themselves, and that real work—work of imagination, work of tenacity, work of skill—would be required to bring his own eventual books into the world. He also understood that the field was not uncrowded: a lot of young people just like himself felt the way he did about books and wanted to write them one day, and it was even possible that some of these other young people might conceivably have even more natural talent than he did, or possibly a more robust imagination, or just a greater will to get the job done. These were not ideas that gave him much pleasure, but, in his favor, he did know his own mind. He knew that he would not be getting certified to teach English in public schools ("if the writing thing doesn't work out") or taking the LSATs ("why not?"). He knew that he had chosen his lane and begun swimming, and he would not stop swimming until he held his own book in his own hands, at which point the world would surely have learned the thing he himself had known for so many years:

He was a writer.

A great writer.

That had been the intention, anyway.

It was late June and it had been raining all over Vermont for the better part of a week when Jake opened the door to his new office in Richard Peng Hall. As he stepped inside he noticed that he had tracked mud along the corridor and into the room, and he looked down at his sorry running shoes—once white, now brown with damp and dirt, never in fact used for actual running—and felt the pointlessness of taking them off now. He'd spent the long day driving up from the city with two plastic Food Emporium bags of clothes and that elderly leather satchel containing the nearly as elderly laptop on which his current novel—the novel he was theoretically (as opposed to actually) working on—and the folders of submitted work by his assigned students, and it occurred to him that he had brought progressively less with him each time he'd made the trip north to Ripley. The first year? A big suitcase stuffed with most of his clothing (because who knew what might be considered appropriate attire for three weeks in northern Vermont, surrounded by surely fawning students and surely envious fellow teachers?) and every printed-out draft of his second novel, the deadline for which he'd had a tendency to whine about in public. This year? Only those two plastic bags of tossed-in jeans and shirts and the laptop he now mainly used for ordering dinner and watching YouTube.

Excerpted from The Plot by Jean Korelitz. Copyright © 2021 by Jean Korelitz. Excerpted by permission of Celadon. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Creative Writing MFA Programs

BookBrowse Sale!

Join BookBrowse and discover exceptional books for just $3/mth!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Crossings
    by Ben Goldfarb
    We've all seen it—a dead animal carcass on the side of the road, clearly mowed down by a car. ...
  • Book Jacket: Wifedom
    by Anna Funder
    When life became overwhelming for writer, wife, and mother Anna Funder in the summer of 2017, she ...
  • Book Jacket: The Fraud
    The Fraud
    by Zadie Smith
    In a recent article for The New Yorker, Zadie Smith joked that she moved away from London, her ...
  • Book Jacket: Wasteland
    by Oliver Franklin-Wallis
    Globally, we generate more than 2 billion tons of household waste every year. That annual total ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Fair Rosaline
by Natasha Solomons
A subversive, powerful untelling of Romeo and Juliet by New York Times bestselling author Natasha Solomons.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The September House
    by Carissa Orlando

    A dream home becomes a haunted nightmare in this compulsively readable, twisty, and layered debut novel.

  • Book Jacket

    Digging Stars
    by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

    Blending drama and satire, Digging Stars probes the emotional universes of love, friendship, family, and nationhood.

Win This Book
Win Moscow X

25 Copies to Give Away!

A daring CIA operation threatens chaos in the Kremlin. But can Langley trust the Russian at its center?



Solve this clue:

A M I A Terrible T T W

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.