The world has more self-help books than any reader could ever hope to get through, but that hasn’t stopped fictional author Gary Speedwell creating another in Michael Nabavian and Phil Wall’s Gary’s Guide to Life.
Gary hasn’t let his lack of actual success stop him writing one either. Working a dead-end job (just until the book succeeds, you understand), recently separated from his wife and struggling to make rent payments are all just minor inconveniences that surround him as he marches to the top. It may seem like the blind leading the blind, but if you (and he) follow his advice, everything should turn out for the best.
“The fact is, I am someone very much like you – a humble traveller on the road to success. I may be further down that road than you are, and I may be moving forward at a greater speed, and I may have a far more powerful sense of self-belief, but the fact remains that my greatest success still lies in the future, not in the past or present.”
Inspired by the hugely successful American self-help guru Marshall Brewster, Gary has decided to take the knowledge he has learned from Marshall and craft it for the British market. However, other than studying Marshall’s work, he has little experience to relate and his advice is often hilariously wrong.
“Of course, I’m not saying: Be like Hitler. But what I am saying is: Be like Hitler in this particular respect.”
Initially I was worried that would just be one joke repeated: a nothing man trying to impart pseudo-wisdom as his own life falters. Luckily, Gary has plenty of areas that he knows nothing about that he thinks he can help you with. From the way you see yourself to how you approach love, work and life in general, he’s a man full of answers, although not always the right ones.
“For example, suppose you rise through the ranks to become head of Quality Assurance at a ketchup bottling plant. On the one hand, you’ve attained a form of career success, for which I applaud you. On the other hand, is this the sort of career success that will bring happiness? Not a chance, because ketchup quality assurance is too boring for words.”
Aside from the snippets from his book, we also have the story of Gary’s ongoing life weaved throughout his writing process. The central story surrounds Gary’s relationship with a trio of women: his wife who has recently kicked him out, an ex-girlfriend looking for closure and his boss who he’s taken an illogical (and non-mutual) liking to.
There’s plenty of crossover between his book and his life, all of which ties up nicely at the end. There are plenty of little details sprinkled throughout the story that seemed to be off-hand remarks highlighting his stupidity and lack of awareness, that turned out to be cleverly planned by our real authors. Nabavian and Wall have done a great job merging the ridiculous aspect of self-help books with the empathy-enducing tale of its hapless author.
“In your quest to reach the top, you can’t expect instant results – just as you can’t walk into a casino, feed some money into the fruit machine, pull the lever, and expect a big payoff just like that. The most successful gamblers are those found at the casino night after night, reliably stationed at their fruit machines, secure in the knowledge that even if they have to pull the lever thousands of times, eventually the jackpot will be theirs.”