“Arts & Entertainments” – Christopher Beha
“Arts & Entertainments” by Christopher Beha is a book that at the start I felt was written just for me. It had a parallel and even eerie introduction that had many similarities to my own life about a man named Eddie. He’s in his thirties desperately trying to hold on and improve his meager success of his earlier years in the film industry only to realize that nearly a decade has passed him by and is now teaching at his former high school; a private Catholic school for boys.
I am now in my thirties, was a substitute teacher for two years at my former high school (a private Catholic school for boys), and still effortlessly trying to make my mark in the entertainment industry. There are a few major exceptions of which will never apply to me. The first is that Eddie was trying to be an actor, whereas I am trying to make it as a screenwriter. The other is that in this book, Eddie willingly crashes and burns into it by selling a sex tape he had made with a former ex girlfriend and now television superstar to a reality show… and that is where the freight train that is the parallel stops. In “Arts & Entertainment”, Eddie Hartley-known as “Handsome Eddie”-is a Drama teacher at his former high school. He’s a fairly respected teacher, though isn’t really shown as a particularly good one. With his most successful years as a once a season appearance regular on the crime drama “Law & Order” far behind him, Eddie is forced to all but give up on his foolish dreams and be an adult. He lives in NYC with his wife, Susan, who works as a small art gallery curator. Susan always wanted to be a mother, but a previous miscarriage and her age have made it exceedingly difficult for her to have children. Eddie sees this as both a blessing and a curse. His heart breaks for his wife for not being able to have children, but Eddie doesn’t really want kids, though he doesn’t admit that point blank to Susan. The reason being is because he knows that he wouldn’t be able to afford having a family. He had already paid for an in vitro fertilization treatment that didn’t work and he had a lifetime of student loans to weigh him down.
The story begins with Eddie in his classroom about to begin summer break. That night he has a reunion with some of his former classmates who all grew up to be financial and industry successes. One of which is an online television producer who designs and coordinates how videos become viral videos. They all reminisce about an ex girlfriend of Eddie’s named Martha. Martha was now the most famous reality TV star out there. The Kim Kardashian of this particular universe.
Desperate more for money than fame, Eddie coordinates with the viral video producer the sale and “leak” of a sex tape he had made with Martha when they dated about ten years prior. The result is a smorgasbord of complications and infamy more dire than Eddie could’ve ever imagined. The large result is that Susan kicks Eddie out and is forced to have his life broadcast to the world by way of a new reality show revolving around Martha, Susan, Eddie, and a few other characters he encounters as a result of his actions. All Eddie wants is for Susan to forgive him and take him back, but the producers of the show constantly play defense against Eddie trying to win back his wife by thrusting a much younger aspiring actress in front of him making him look like a pedophile and pariah to the television audience.
This book did have moments of humor, but it also takes a very dark and exposed look at the production of reality television. How these so-called soulless television superstars are real people with feelings and experience moments of great depression. The last third of the book especially felt like Eddie was trapped inside a “Truman Show” that he knew he was a part of with cameramen and ordinary citizens chasing him around the clock. The author’s writing style gave me a tremendous sense of empathy for Eddie and there were moments where I felt I was being suffocated alongside with him. I couldn’t stop reading because I truly cared about the characters that I had learned about and I wanted to know what would ultimately happen to them. It’s a relatively easy and enjoyable read that I highly recommend especially to those interested in trying to get into (or are already in) the entertainment industry.