Not Famous Anymore – reviewed by Dana Micheli

It is not too often that a novel combines Hollywood royalty, raunchy rednecks, Bill O’Reilly and cowboys who spout insight worthy of a Zen master.  But award-winning novelist Michael Loyd Gray makes it work, and masterfully so, in his latest book, Not Famous Anymore.

Elliott Adrian is in many ways a Hollywood cliché: small town boy who made good; a movie star with a mansion, a collection of sports cars, and an entourage of sycophants to fulfill his every desire; another celebrity behaving badly, without a care for anyone but himself.  But beneath the flippant, arrogant façade beats the heart of an empty, desperately unhappy man.  After his latest alcohol-fueled stunt lands him in rehab, Elliott decides he’s cashing in his chips and leaving L.A.—and fame—for good.

As he travels along the dusty back roads of small town America, Elliott learns that quitting fame is not as easy as he had thought. But as he struggles to shed his movie star persona and avoid a rabid pack of paparazzi, he encounters friends whose pearls of real world wisdom lead him closer to his truth. For Elliot’s real journey is not about escaping Hollywood, but about rediscovering himself.   

Both riotously funny and heartbreakingly tragic, Gray’s taut prose reminds me of gently flowing poem.  It is filled with raw emotions, rich descriptions of vast and varied American landscapes, and literary references; yet not a word is wasted. Like his muse, Ernest Hemingway, Gray’s novel is an exploration of what it means to be a man, an American, and most importantly, an authentic human being.   

I, for one, never enjoyed Hemingway so much as when Michael Loyd Gray channeled him.  His work heralds the return of the quintessential American writer that had all but disappeared from modern literature.

Michael Loyd Gray is an award-winning author, journalist and college professor. Born in Arkansas and raised in Champaign, Illinois, he has also lived and worked in New York, Arizona, Texas, and Michigan. He has a MFA from Western Michigan University and a Journalism degree from the University of Illinois. His novel Well Deserved won the 2008 Sol Books Prose Series Award. His story “Little Man” won the 2005 Alligator Juniper Fiction Prize and the 2005 The Writers Place Award for Fiction. Not Famous Anymore was awarded a grant by the Elizabeth George Foundation.  December’s Children, another of his novels, was a finalist for the 2006 Sol Books Prose Series Prize and is forthcoming in 2012 from Sol Books as the young adult novel, King Biscuit. Currently, Gray is a full-time online English professor at South University, where he co-founded Asynchronous, the student literary journal.

 

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