Why anyone would care about Simon Burchwood’s meteoric rise I’m not sure, but I certainly did. I couldn’t stop turning the pages to find out what amazing, stupid, or appalling thing Simon might do next. It’s true, as Simon, our narrator, says time after time in his memoir, The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood.
Simon has always wanted to be a famous writer – not just a writer, but a famous one – yet fate has him working a dull job at TechForce, in Austin, Texas. Actually, he does as little for his employer as possible, preferring to use his company computer to work on his great novel, It’s true.
Simon is not an appealing man—not in appearance as he describes himself, not in his personality, and not in his behavior. Yet we are hooked on his adventures and what comes out of his mouth.
He is supposed to be flying to New York to read a passage from his soon-to-be-published novel, The Rise and Fall of a Titan, at Barnes & Noble’s flagship store, but he stops off in his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, to visit his best friend, Jason, whom he hasn’t seen since he was 16. They have stayed in touch through, amazingly enough, letters.
Some of the best scenes in the book come when Simon interacts with strangers. He inevitably starts out thinking a person is nice, clever, a genius even, then ends up hating them—all in one short encounter.
As an example, here’s part of his encounter with an airport bartender:
Bartender: “That drink’s on the house," he said, pointing to my cocktail.
Simon: “Thank you for your generosity." Can you fucking believe it? Wow, he was a professional, a real topnotch bartender. I have known many bartenders in my time but he was one of the slickest.”
And later in the conversation:
Bartender: “Being that I work in an airport, I meet lots of famous types. Singers, actors, politicians, reporters, disc jockeys, athletes, porn stars, you name it. But I ain't never met no writer before. Come to think of it, I don't even know what writers look like.”
Simon: "That's a shame. Writers should be like rock stars in our society. They should be revered," I said. And I meant it too.
Bartender: "That's funny. That's like saying everyone should recognize chess masters or cyclists or physicists or inventors. Nobody cares about writers just like nobody cares about those other types. No offense."
Simon: "None taken." Actually, that really pissed me off. I mean, who the fuck did he think he was anyway? I was the one with a publishing deal. He was stuck in an airport bar serving swill to his high-class clientele, the nose-picking barflies.”
And his encounters continue with his about-faces: the ticket agent, the flight attendant, a friend from high school, Jason’s wife, the girl he had a crush on in high school; not even Jason escapes his excoriation. It’s true.
And did I mention that he was cheap and a shameless self-promoter? For example, he passes out his business card to just about everyone he runs into and tells them: " . . . you can leave me a tip by going to my web site at www.simonburchwood.com and clicking the Submit button on the gratuity web page." He takes all major credit cards. It’s true.
Simon is such a character that I couldn’t wait to find what he did next.
But I wasn’t at all prepared for the surprising conclusion.
(reviewed 21 days after purchase)