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How to Fail as a Popstar

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Described as “cultural rocket fuel” by Vanity Fair , Vivek Shraya is a multi-media artist whose art, music, novels, and poetry and children’s books explore the beauty and the power of personal and cultural transformation. How to Fail as a Popstar is Vivek’s debut theatrical work, a one-person show that chronicles her journey from singing in shopping malls to “not quite” pop music superstardom with beguiling humor and insight. A reflection on the power of pop culture, dreams, disappointments, and self-determination, this astonishing work is a raw, honest, and hopeful depiction of the search to find one’s authentic voice.

The book includes color photographs from the show’s 2020 production in Toronto, and a foreword by its director Brendan Healy.

72 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2021

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About the author

Vivek Shraya

12 books982 followers
Vivek Shraya is an artist whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, literature, visual art, theatre, and film. She is the author of The Subtweet, Death Threat, even this page is white, The Boy & The Bindi, She of the Mountains, and God Loves Hair; and her best-selling I’m Afraid of Men was her­ald­ed by Vanity Fair as “cultural rocket fuel”. She is one half of the music duo Too Attached, founder of the publishing imprint VS. Books, and an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Calgary.

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5 stars
23 (33%)
4 stars
32 (46%)
3 stars
12 (17%)
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1 (1%)
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Displaying 1 - 13 of 13 reviews
Profile Image for Stephanie.
6 reviews4 followers
January 1, 2022
Hi just here to declare my love of Vivek’s creative capacity <3
Profile Image for Kristen.
184 reviews9 followers
May 29, 2022
"How do I continue to live with my dream alongside failure"

I loved the approach in looking at failure as its own entity instead of as a type of opportunity. Failure is failure and it's okay to call it that.

The stage vision for me was very clear, especially the listing of reasons she failed. I thought it was brilliant.

However, I wish some of the reflection in the afterward was actual content in the narrative!
Profile Image for Tricia.
400 reviews5 followers
March 3, 2022
Originally designed as a play, this translates easily into novella form. The title is not a gimmick- this is a book about not accomplishing the dream you work really hard at, and then ending without resolution. And you know what? It’s awesome! It’s refreshingly honest, and Shraya is excellent as always.
381 reviews2 followers
November 24, 2022
I wish I had listened to this rather than read a physical copy because I think that would add so much. But it was a quick read full of self-deprecating humor and now I want to read Vivek Shraya’s novels.
Profile Image for Gaelan D'costa.
164 reviews6 followers
January 21, 2023
This story is a tight retelling of the author's background for her dream of being a massively popular musician, and how that presumably did not come to fruition (she seems to have become a respectable resume though, given her biography).

It does not elaborate on the reasons for the most part and there seems to be a reason for that; the intro, itself quite a tight read, talks about this book being an attempt to normalize failure, in defiance of our current social values that require everyone to sell themselves as some kind of successful influencer and leader.

For me, moreso than the retelling itself, which will resonate with many I am sure, the idea of just plainly stating that one strove for some kind of success in youth and did not hit it was a nice read. There was none of the maudlin scenes that one normally sees in stories like this, with some kind redemption in the end (which is even called out in the book). It is stated plainly, and the forward even puts it into a framework which could be internalized.

The narrative really focuses on this particular chosen take; I am not sure if the intended audience is people already familiar with Shraya and other aspects of her life she has talked about, where a lot of the speculated "reasons" for the author's failure or which blocked her from her desired success would presumably be elaborated on even more. In some ways that keeps the simple fact of failed dream centred as the key point, the core nutrition on which the reader can digest.

From a form point of view, I find the self-description of this book as a play a bit confusing, because there are few stage directions. There are pictures of performances in the back, and I am curious to know how those would fit into the textualized monologues and songs that were presumably performed. Were there key movements attached to particular pieces of the monologue, or was the moment primarily done during the musical segments?
Profile Image for Willow L.
274 reviews37 followers
April 12, 2021
Something I’ve always found excitingly daunting is jumping into a new style or genre of literature. I felt this strongly when starting Vivek Shraya’s latest book featuring her play How to Fail as a Popstar. Personally, I’ve never really felt the need to venture into reading plays because I felt as if I got my fill of that in high school, and if I desperately wanted to consume one, I could easily head into the city and get tickets to a show. But being a fan of Vivek’s work and compelled by the idea of this play, I knew I had to pick this up. And wow, am I sure glad I did!

Despite my nerves going into this piece, I immediately felt at home reading the foreword by play director Brendan Healy. I knew right there that this play would be something I highly value, and when Healy listed his three main takeaways from the play, I felt so much more eager to continue reading.

Vivek is extremely skilled in creating a compelling narrative. The majority of this play is formed around an autobiographical telling of her experiences with wanting to become a popstar from her earliest memory of music to where she sees her ultimate failure. Music is of course a key aspect of this play as it is dotted with her original songs (much to my delight as I really love her music, check her out on Spotify), and they really added so much to the story. I particularly love the closing song, Showing Up.

Check out the full review on my blog here!
November 4, 2021
I love how Vivek reflects on the concept of failure as an ending place without adding the stress of having to overcome or learn from failure. The play's message of just existing in and feeling failure has made me change the way I think about certain decisions in my life and I am grateful for having read this.
Profile Image for Renee.
564 reviews8 followers
May 21, 2022
3.5 stars - enjoyable quick read. It's an adaptation for the play that the author did in early 2020, but doesn't read like a full play as it's a single person show! It's about exactly as the title says - embracing the idea of failure and not always reaching what you set out to do. Love the songs in it and the crazy living in Toronto trying to make it bit.
Profile Image for Leah.
35 reviews1 follower
April 21, 2021
So thankful I got to see the show in person and Shraya in all her glory - reading it again moved me and reminded me about how important it is to mourn failings and most of all, to show up.
Profile Image for Bina Artiste.
Author 8 books1 follower
March 17, 2021
Another great read by Vivek Shraya. Makes me realize that I need to embrace my creativity more.
Displaying 1 - 13 of 13 reviews

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