Looking for a good beach read this summer, but Life After the 30-Second Spot, Blink and even Freakonomics feel too much like work? Perhaps these two first novels by advertising veterans will do the trick.
First up is Lord Vishnu's Love Handles, by Will Clarke, an ex-DDB Dallas copywriter who now freelances. The black comedy, published by Simon & Schuster, is about a psychic ex-dot-com millionaire who falls in with paranormal spies, a Charles Manson-loving yogi, a chubby blue incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu and a pair of mentally conjoined twins. Reached on his book tour (see booktourvirgin.com), the Louisiana-born author says this jambalaya of a story may never have been possible if he didn't work in advertising. "It really is a poor man's MFA program," he says. "You have to produce every day. And it gives you rhinoceros skin. Some people get all John Kennedy Toole when they get rejected. They want to end it all. In advertising, you don't worry about it." Perhaps most important, he adds: "Advertising is a parade of weirdos. That helps with characters."
Movie rights have been snapped up by producer Michael London (Sideways), with David Gordon Green (Undertow) set to direct. (Casting is ongoing.) It's all pretty trippy for Clarke, 35, who was fired from his first copywriting job because "they said I couldn't write." Now, says a book-jacket blurb by Crackpots author Sara Pritchard, he's "part David Sedaris, part Dave Eggers, part Charlie Kaufman, part Hunter S. Thompson, part Tom Robbins, and part Kurt Vonnegut." ("She forgot part Jackie Collins," Clarke jokes.) Clarke also got a blurb from skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, with whom Clarke worked on a DDB shoot. Hawk calls the book "an entertaining and gritty journey into the supernatural, full of wit and surprises at every turn."
Also new from Simon and Schuster's Downtown Press is Confessions of a Nervous Shiksa, by Tracy McArdle, management supervisor at Arnold in Boston. The humor-driven chick-lit story chronicles the demise of a Hollywood publicist's relationship with her Jewish actor fiancé, who tells her to convert to Judaism or get lost. The book offers "a funny and fascinating glimpse of an insider's experience behind the scenes in Hollywood," according to one's reviewer. "It's a universal story for anyone who's ever gone through a breakup," says McArdle, 37, who has wanted to be a novelist since she was 8. McArdle says the book, which took her four years to write, is "inspired by true events," but she wouldn't get more specific.
A Fordham grad, McArdle works on Goodyear and Volkswagen in Arnold's brand promotions department. The Bedford, Mass., native is currently on a brief leave of absence to promote the book, but has no intention of quitting her day job. "I'm very lucky," she says. "Arnold is a creative place, and they want to be supportive of people who have creative pursuits outside of work."