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After the Workshop: How Marketing Ate Our Culture

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  259 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
You graduate from the Iowa WritersOCO Workshop with a short story published in "The New Yorker" and subsequently "Best American Short Stories." You stay in town and work on your novel. And work on your novel. Until, finally, twelve years have passed and you are working as a media escort for author tours and your unfinished novel sits in a box under your bed. Your girlfrien ...more
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Published February 16th 2010 by Counterpoint Press (first published 2010)
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Manik Sukoco
Jan 04, 2016 Manik Sukoco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jack Sheahan is a writer and media escort. Unfortunately, he's been terminally blocked on his novel-in-progress for ten years, and is living a lonely existence in the same apartment where he spent his student years. The central question of his life is why he hasn't killed himself before now.
In the course of a few days, Jack will confront his own inner demons as well as virtually every caricature and archetype of the literary world - the bitchy, cutthroat publicist; scheming grad students; pompou
May 14, 2014 Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wanted something funny/easy after The Sea, the Sea -- this one's pages turned almost on autopilot. Not to workshop it, but it's conventionally structured, with six or so outloud HAs (a funny line about Nathan Englander's author pic), a dozen insightful lines, not-exactly-3D characters other than a Frank Conroy-type and an older reclusive good-natured famous writer. A thinish plot sometimes seemed to exist only to host engaging/enjoyable exposition re: the IC, MFA programs, envy, writer's block - ...more
Aug 24, 2014 Ashley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am the custom-made audience for this book. MFA from Columbia. Stuck on a novel. Worked with insufferable publicists. Familiar with the drudgery and lack of respect media escorts get. Primed to laugh at self-conscious, pretentious literary types, writers with undeserved success, the obsessive quest for literary agents. Everything about this book was utterly familiar, and yet I found no joy in reading it. Perhaps I was too familiar. But there was absolutely zero nuance in any of the characters. ...more
Sasha Martinez
[A note: I’ve been sitting on this post for weeks—and, incidentally, taking the book with me to bed to obsess over sentences and scenes. This novel has fast become one of my favorite reads. Evahr. I shall squeal, and then elaborate. Because, man, I want everyone to read this book.]

After the Workshop by John McNally is one of this life’s little joys. It was fast-paced, a compulsive read–truth: stayed up all night reading it, even though I wasn’t supposed to on account of that flu (and my grandmot
Apr 20, 2010 Joan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't usually even bother listing books I don't like on this site. Most times I don't even finish them. Too many good books, too little time. But this book had such great reviews and I was so disappointed by it, I am breaking my own rule.

There were certainly some funny bits, but there were also some scenes that had no value to plot or character development.

I did not find the characters very original or engaging - none of them. The dialogue was pretty pedestrian.

On the plus side, it was a spe
Aug 25, 2010 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved the pacing of the book. Characters are memorable. Funny things ensue.

Although funny things happen, the basis of the book is somewhat of a downer, but mighty powerful. The first few lines capture it well, "Most people fail to recognize the moment they've touched the ceiling of their potential, that point at which they've reached the height of their intellectual prowess or the summit of their popularity. It can happen anywhere, at any point in life...:

I'm too much of an optimist to think th
Feb 17, 2010 G rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I could have finished this book in one sitting, it was that funny and engaging. Kind of reminded me of "Wonder Boys," but I'm not saying John McNally is anything like Chabon. He is himself, and I just enjoyed the heck out of this book.
Jul 24, 2014 mbattist rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-us-iowa
Funny, sardonic, ironic turnabout - the graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop and one book wonder gets stalled on his second, falling into work as a media escort. Protag Jack Hercules Sheahan plays escort to a host of really awful authors, can't help but try to put names to the characters - just one or two mean well. So sorry author John McNalley had these experiences, but so glad he turned them into such a funny book.

Thanks Ashland Public Library for this book, found on browsing the new book s
Apr 29, 2010 Todd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Living in Iowa City--where this story takes place--I found this in the local independent bookstore--which, oddly enough, is referred to in the novel as "local independent bookstore" instead of Prairie Lights Books, which it obviously is. (While other local places retain their actual name, for some reason.)

I really enjoyed the story, even though it started to sputter a bit towards the end. I can't tell if I was supposed to feel sorry for the protagonist, but I never did. It was never a case of "p
Aug 12, 2011 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first I was skeptical, but this book quickly won me over. It's a funny, satirical look at the life of a blocked literary writer, and its commentary on the sad realities of the literary industry today are as dead on as they are morbidly funny. No one reads anyone, not even the publicists. Even the hardcore dedicated writers at the bottom of the totem pole often skip reading the literati with high billing, and what is that high billing all about if not a fancy pitch to a good agent and a good s ...more
Aug 23, 2011 Melissa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
"Most people fail to recognize the moment they've touched the ceiling of their potential, that point at which they've reached the height of their intellectual prowess or the summit of their popularity. It can happen anywhere, at any point in their life - away at college during a study session the night before a final, or on a high school football field while catching the game winning touchdown. For some poor souls it happens as early as grade school, often inconspicuously: surrounded by friends ...more
Feb 05, 2011 Flossie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Iowa Citians, writers, the unemployed with impressive college degrees
Recommended to EVERYBODY who's ever lived in Iowa City. I wish I could recommend it to EVERYBODY in general, but I know some of my enjoyment came from recognizing every single place/person in the story...

That said, the writing really is good. And it got better as I continued reading. There is a scene in the last third of the book where the protagonist visits a B&B with two out-of-towners that made me laugh so hard I started crying. The whole thing is hilarious. Read it. I finished in two si
Jun 11, 2010 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Years ago, I stumbled across McNally's debut story collection, Troublemakers, and really enjoyed it. His followup novel, The Book of Ralph, was even better, and marked him as a writer who'll always be on my radar. Here, he revisits the territory of his last novel, America's Report Card. In that humorous satire, a somewhat hapless young man finishes his MFA at Iowa and then takes a crappy office job in order to make ends meet, only to become embroiled in a strange series of events. This story als ...more
H R Koelling
Nov 26, 2010 H R Koelling rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fantastic novel. I think I enjoyed this so much because I could empathize with the protagonist. I also happened to read it while camping in the desert working on my first novel/memoir, which mimics the travails of the main character.

This book has some very funny lines in it, too. It is very well written. I was sad when it ended because the author created some great characters. It has a fantastic plot.

This is the best novel I have read in many years. But I only think you will like it if
Nov 24, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book! Told in short chapters the story of a guy who was a media escort, driving around big time authors when he himself was one once upon a time in the Iowa Workshop. The protagonist had a short story published in the New Yorker and then everything went down hill. He ends up losing one of his authors and we find out why she disappears. He just can't seem to get anything right. It's not over the top chaos but he seems to run into the same people and lots of drinking is involve ...more
The Bookloft
Bookseller: Ev

Authors, agents, publicists, writing teachers, book sellers, even readers... John McNally takes satiric aim at all of them in this caustic, clever, calamitous novel about the book biz. It's kind of the literary equivalent of sausage-making, a glimpse behind the scenes that will make you cringe even as it whets your appetite. this is the book that rescued me (finally!) from the reading doldrums this winter - Thank you, John McNally!
Malena Watrous
Mar 03, 2010 Malena Watrous rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wolfed this down. I happened to be in Iowa City when I bought and read it, and it was a true (if slightly guilty) pleasure to read this roman a clef/satire of the workshop, on workshop grounds. I knew most of the anecdotes and gossip within the book, which made me feel a bit smarmy and indicted (as bad as one of the satirized characters, I guess) and it was all too easy to fill in the real characters behind the slightly caricaturized (but barely) portrayals. The voice and pacing were terrific, ...more
Joe Sacksteder
It was funny, and its depiction of the inner workings of the writer world gave me the enjoyment of high-grade gossip. Some of the characters seemed to exist only for their purpose in the novel, and McNally's attempts to give "both sides" of likable/unlikable characters seemed after a while too forgiving and predictable. Some suckers just suck. The main character was supposed to be unlikable, and we were supposed to cringe with every wrong decision he made, but I wanted some kind of redemption at ...more
Oct 28, 2010 Agathafrye rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: funny, literary
A hilariously snarky dig on the cutthroat world of writing and publishing. Jack Hercules Sheahan graduates from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and manages to get one of his short stories published in a Best American Short Stories anthology. Sadly, it's all downhill from there. Jack starts to work on a novel, which defeats him, and we find him twelve years later, still living in Iowa and working as a media escort for all of the hot new authors who have succeeded where he failed. John McNally manages ...more
May 01, 2011 Naomi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers!
Shelves: fiction, 2011
I really enjoyed this book! I'm not sure I really got the joke because I never really got what was going on in English class, but it seemed like one gigantic joke, a tongue-in-cheek, poke-fun story that was also just an entertaining story by itself. It is a fictional memoir of a writer who is actually a washed-up writer working as a media escort...for writers. All sorts of ridiculous happens, all of it exaggerated like a tall-tale that gets better for the telling. Or any story that Michelle Brow ...more
May 25, 2014 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reads like a Jonathan Tropper novel. Funny and well developed characters each going through their own mid life crisis. Picked it up at a library sale for 50 cents having never heard of the book or author and glad I did.
Mar 15, 2010 Lexi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic, funny and wonderful novel. Jack Sheahan attended the Iowa Writer's Workshop, had a story published in The New Yorker, anthologized in Best American Short Stories- and then nothing, for years. Now he works as a media escort for author tours, airport-fetching visiting writers (achingly perfect New York hipsters, emotionally unstable trauma-memoir types, etc) and over the course of a few blizzardy days, his life spins out of control and towards redemption. I really loved this book and do ...more
Dec 15, 2014 Devonee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Funny and astute. Great book for writers who have experienced writers block or who have lived in Iowa at any time in their lives.
I blazed through this one. For me, the greatest pleasure was in the trainspotting: the Foxhead, the Mill, Prairie Lights - all the old IWW haunts. Kind of "Wonder Boys" lite (wacky literary types descend upon a college town over the course of a few days; the albatross of a long-unfinished manuscript; critical items stolen; a once-bright, now humbled writer with a messy love life, etc.) Mostly, I'm glad that my own Workshop experience wasn't peopled with such back-stabbers, throat-cutters, rung-c ...more
Apr 16, 2014 Larry rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
interesting to see what parts of Iowa City make it into the novel.
Michael Ladd
Feb 05, 2014 Michael Ladd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McNally's writing is as solid anyone, a true craftsman.
John Flaherty
Mar 17, 2010 John Flaherty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fun and fast read. McNally's hero Jack Sheahan is no Sherlock Holmes, but in Iowa City, he's the closest thing. Jack is smart, he is funny, he goes to bars in the middle of the day, he has got a buddy named M.Cat. And he is searching for a missing writer...Yes, a lot of the book's characters are writers. No, none of their ankles get sledgehammered by an insane fan(a mistake, in my opinion). But the book is engaging and entertaining for both those lucky enough to know no writers and for those w ...more
Dec 14, 2010 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meta: a book about a person who writes books. Or rather, a book about a person who wants to write books but somehow got stuck as an author escort in Iowa. It's an interesting take on the land of scholarly writing and publishing from a different perspective. Part fiction, part memoir, it's sometimes hard to tell where the author's story stops and the character's story begins, which is part of the fun. The writing is funny, the characters are well-developed, and the plot takes interesting twists a ...more
Apr 27, 2011 Marvin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: midwest
McNally once again (as in America's Report Card) sets his story in Iowa City, with a loser of a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop. This time the narrator is working as a host for visiting writers on tours to sell their books. It's really just a series of scenes strung together that don't amount to much. I can't imagine why someone who's not a writer or a resident of Iowa City would want to read it; for more effective satire & a more compelling story, with some of the same themes, look to ...more
Allison Means
Aug 31, 2010 Allison Means rated it it was amazing
This was a really quick and fun read. It was hilarious to read a book that takes place in Iowa City (while living and having gone to college in Iowa City). The scenes in the Foxhead and various other Iowa City establishments are dead on, and the characters "writers" who populate the page are each on their own funny little trip as they collide into each other for one crazy weekend. If you enjoy writers, or if you enjoy hating writers, here in Iowa City, this is definitely worth a read.
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John McNally is the author of three novels (After the Workshop, America's Report Card and The Book of Ralph) and two story collections (Ghosts of Chicago and Troublemakers). He's written two books on writing: Vivid and Continuous: Essays and Exercise for Writing Fiction and The Creative Writer's Survival Guide: Advice from an Unrepentant Novelist He's edited six fiction anthologies, on subjects ra ...more
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