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Reviews of The Plot by Jean Korelitz

The Plot

by Jean Korelitz

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

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  • First Published:
    May 2021, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2022, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Peggy Kurkowski
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About this Book

Book Summary

Hailed as "breathtakingly suspenseful," Jean Hanff Korelitz's The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he's teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what's left of his self-respect; he hasn't written―let alone published―anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn't need Jake's help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then...he hears the plot.

Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker's first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that―a story that absolutely needs to be told.

In a few short years, all of Evan Parker's predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his "sure thing" of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?

CHAPTER ONE

Anybody Can Be a Writer

Jacob Finch Bonner, the once promising author of the "New & Noteworthy" (The New York Times Book Review) novel The Invention of Wonder, let himself into the office he'd been assigned on the second floor of Richard Peng Hall, set his beat-up leather satchel on the barren desk, and looked around in something akin to despair. The office, his fourth home in Richard Peng Hall in as many years, was no great improvement on the earlier three, but at least it overlooked a vaguely collegiate walkway under trees from the window behind the desk, rather than the parking lot of years two and three or the dumpster of year one (when, ironically, he'd been much closer to the height of his literary fame, such as it was, and might conceivably have hoped for something nicer). The only thing in the room that signaled anything of an actual literary nature, that signaled anything of any warmth at all, was the beat-up satchel Jake used to transport his laptop and, ...

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Reviews

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Jean Hanff Korelitz's inimitable and imaginative story-within-a-story sinks its claws in early and doesn't let go until its unforgettable finish. She explores the insular world of her own craft — writers and their ideas — via a chilling twist perhaps as clever as the one Evan Parker shares with Jacob Finch Bonner at an MFA program one fateful day. A truly unique plot in its own right, the novel is a joy in part for its insider look at the writer's solitary craft juxtaposed against the hype and marketing of the publishing world...continued

Full Review (644 words)

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(Reviewed by Peggy Kurkowski).

Media Reviews

New York Times
As a longtime fan of Korelitz’s novels...I will say that I think The Plot is her gutsiest, most consequential book yet. It keeps you guessing and wondering, and also keeps you thinking: about ambition, fame and the nature of intellectual property (the analog kind). Are there a finite number of stories? Is there a statute of limitations on ownership of unused ideas? These weighty questions mingle with a love story, a mystery and a striver’s journey — three of the most satisfying flavors of fiction out there.

People
Korelitz's own plot is fiendishly clever, and here's the ultimate twist: that any novel about a writer's life (lonely, anxious drudgery) could be this wildly suspenseful and entertaining.

Washington Post
[A] witty nightmare of a thriller...The plot of The Plot is so ingenious that it should be assigned as required reading in the very MFA programs it pinions, both as a model of superior narrative construction and as a warning of the grim realities of the literary life to naive wannabe writers.

Kirkus Reviews
[S]atisfyingly twisty...in the best tradition of Patricia Highsmith and other chroniclers of the human psyche's darkest depths. Gripping and thoroughly unsettling: This one will be flying off the shelves.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A]n ingeniously twisty novel... Deep character development, an impressively thick tapestry of intertwining story lines, and a candid glimpse into the publishing business make this a page-turner of the highest order. Korelitz deserves acclaim for her own perfect plot

Booklist
Korelitz...effortlessly deconstructs the campus novel and, much like Michael Chabon in Wonder Boys (1995), acerbically mocks the publishing industry. Fearless Korelitz presents a wry and unusual joyride of a thriller full of gasp-inducing twists as it explores copyright, ownership, and the questionable morals of writers.

BookPage
Readers may find themselves batting away sleep and setting an alarm for early the next day to continue Jean Hanff Korelitz’s propulsive literary thriller, The Plot. Korelitz is an audacious writer who delivers on her promises. Her next big-screen adaptation surely awaits.

Author Blurb Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, New York Times bestselling authors of The Wife Between Us
The Plot is so well-crafted and compelling it's nearly impossible to put down. Clever and chilling, this page-turner grabs you from the first chapter and doesn't let you go until its startling, breath-taking conclusion.

Author Blurb Megan Abbott, bestselling author of Give Me Your Hand
From its first pages, Jean Hanff Korelitz's The Plot ensnares you in a rich tangle of literary vanities, treachery and fraud. Psychologically acute and breathtakingly suspenseful, you'll find yourself rushing towards a finale both astonishing and utterly earned.

Reader Reviews

Sue B

What a plot it is!
Great read, twists all thru the story and the story within the story. Truly was a book I couldn’t put down. Excellent writing keep the flow going the entire time.
Kate G

Are there any new plots to be written?
My disclaimer: I have met Jean Hanff Korelitz many times and have attended many of her Pop-up book groups in NYC through her venture, Book the Writer. I received an ARC of The Plot for Celadon and I was thrilled. I am not a thriller person in ...   Read More
Abdul Salam Rain

The Plot
It's very good book.
Techeditor

Boring, boring, boring
If you are a writer or work in the publishing industry, THE PLOT is for you. As far as I can tell, though, this book is not for anyone else. It bored me. I am sure it will bore most people, maybe even writers and those who work in the publishing ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Creative Writing MFA Programs

Hands poised on typewriter keysThe Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is a graduate-level degree earned by students who seek to pursue work as authors, editors, playwrights, or to teach at the college level. As of 2019, there were more than 200 Creative Writing MFA programs according to Poets & Writers' MFA Index, of which 158 were full-time residency and 64 low-residency programs (like the fictional Ripley Symposia where Jacob Finch Bonner teaches in The Plot).

One of the most prestigious and prominent MFA writing programs is the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, the first creative writing degree program established in the United States in 1936. One of the hardest programs to get accepted into, the achievements of its alumni are impressive — ...

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