By Fran Hoepfner. Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be thrust into the spotlight? To have been an ordinary person one day and a celebrity the next? Christopher Beha's 2014 novel Arts & Entertainments answers these questions in the most heightened, comical way imaginable. As it turns out, going from nothing to everything in the public eye is a little bit of a nightmare.
Arts & Entertainments tells the story of "Handsome" Eddie Hartley, a failed actor, who took up teaching theater at his old high school in New York. He lives a modest life with his wife Susan, but the two are seemingly incapable of conceiving a child. In the mean time, Eddie's old high school ex-girlfriend is a hugely successful television star. As money gets tight and Eddie becomes desperate, he sells a 15 year old sex tape of himself and his ex-girlfriend to make some quick cash. What happens after that spirals far more out of control than he could have anticipated.
There's a bright, comic tone to Arts & Entertainments that keeps it upbeat and moving quickly even when the story is occasionally dark. It's a wild and biting critique on celebrity culture as well as the reality television circuit. Before he knows it, Eddie plays a major role he never thought he'd take on: himself. Arts & Entertainments delves into the scripted culture of reality television, and how so many of the people we see every day on television are just as fictional as the characters on Game of Thrones.
Arts & Entertainments is ultimately a quick, poppy read. There's a lot of bleak humor to it, but it's entertaining and fast-paced in a way that won't bring its reader down. If anything, it'll just provide a lot of guesswork into what reality television does to the people involved in it. Who knows, maybe it's all fictional.