Real-estate novelist: what is that?

In Piano Man, Billy Joel says that “Paul is a real-estate novelist who never had time for a wife…”

Now, I know that he’s talking to Davey (who’s still in the Navy), but what the heck is a real-estate novelist?

Well I am. No not really.

A “real estate novelist” is someone whose “job” is real estate but they really want to a be novelist and are writing a novel while real estate pays the bills. The tone of the song (to me) is that these are all the sort of “lost in life” customers of the lounge and these are their pipe dreams.

The song is people dreaming of doing something big with their lives… but meantime, they’re just killing time at this piano bar, either drinking or working there.

Billy Joel wrote the song about a period where he WANTED to be a rock star, but had to content himself with playing old-time standards for drunks. Meanwhile, the bartender was an aspiring actor, desperate for his big break, so he could stop working there. The waitress was apparently a college girl studying law or government (just working this dive to pay the bills).

And Paul, the “real estate novelist,” is a guy who once planned to write the Great American Novel, but settled into selling real estate, and will probably NEVER be a real writer (though he still kids himself that he will).

IIRC I think he was already a known up and comer and the reason below is why the piano bar scenario transpired. He was there by choice to some extent and wasn’t really there because he had to “content himself” with that venue.

"In 1971 Joel recorded his first solo album, Cold Spring Harbour. He was embarrassed by the record, which was mastered at the wrong speed. Joel toured for six months to support Coldspring Harbour, opening for acts like J. Geils Band and Badfinger. Discouraged, he moved to California, and performed as Bill Martin at Corky’s on Van Nuys Blvd and at the Executive Lounge piano bar on Wiltshire Blvd. After Cold Spring Harbour, Joel kept churning out albums (and hits). Between 1973 (Piano Man) and 1993 (River of Dreams) he made eleven albums, plus his Greatest Hits Volumes I and II, and over 50 singles, CD’s and cassettes.

You are all partialy right. I’ve heard an answer to this from Mr Joel’s mouth at a lecture I was at. I’m going to paraphrase what he said

Paul was by day a real estate agent who claimed he was going to be writing a great americian novel,but all he did was drink at the bar every night
Billy Joel was working at the bar because he was in a very bad contract and didn’t want to make any more albums under a unfair deal. By moving to the west coast and working under his his first and last names,he was able to earn a living until he found a way out of his contract.

Okay, this is all well and good, and the same as my theory when I first heard the song, but I was searching job ads today, and came across a reference to a novelist in real estate. Obviously, it was a real job, but the ad gave no indication of what the person would do.

What was the exact wording of the ad?