The Price of the Haircut: Stories

Algonquin Books
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From an acclaimed and original writer comes a new collection of stories bursting with absurdist plot twists and laced with trenchant wit. Brock Clarke, author of An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England and Exley, among other novels, now offers up bite-sized morsels of his trademark social satire that will have readers laughing, and perhaps shifting uncomfortably in their seats.

The title story delivers a cringingly biting dissection of racial attitudes in contemporary America, and Clarke also turns his eagle eye to subjects like PTSD, the fate of child actors, and, most especially, marital discord in stories like “Considering Lizzie Borden, Her Axe, My Wife” and “The Misunderstandings.” In “The Pity Palace,” a masterful study in self-absorption and self-delusion, a reclusive husband in Florence, Italy, who believes his wife has left him for a famous novelist, sells tickets to tourists anxious to meet someone more miserable than they.

It’s a distinctly Clarkean world, in which readers find themselves reflected back with the distortion of funhouse mirrors—and swept up on a wild ride of heart-wrenching insight and self-discovery.
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About the author

Brock Clarke is the author of two previous story collections and four novels, most recently The Happiest People in the World, Exley (named a Kirkus Book of the Year), and An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England (a national bestseller). He lives in Portland, Maine, and teaches creative writing at Bowdoin College. 

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Additional Information

Publisher
Algonquin Books
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Published on
Mar 13, 2018
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Pages
224
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ISBN
9781616208240
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Humorous / Black Humor
Fiction / Literary
Fiction / Short Stories (single author)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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“[A] dark and funny satire . . . Infidelities, secret identities and double-crosses . . . Reflects the absurdity of any country obsessed with spying on its own people.” —The Wall Street Journal

Take the format of a spy thriller, shape it around real-life incidents involving international terrorism, leaven it with dark, dry humor, toss in a love rectangle, give everybody a gun, and let everything play out in the outer reaches of upstate New York--there you have an idea of Brock Clarke’s new novel. Filled with wonder and anger in almost equal parts,The Happiest People in the World is a ripped-from-the-headlines tale of paranoia and the all-American obsession with security and the conspiracies that threaten it.

“A literary first: a book that feels like the love child of Saul Bellow and Hogan’s Heroes, full of authorial cartwheels of comedy and profundity.” —GQ

“The Happiest People in the World begins with a raucous bar scene featuring party streamers, smoke, prone bodies, spilled fluids and a stuffed moose with a surveillance camera in its left eye . . . [Clarke has] success in dreaming up oddball originals that have instant appeal.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“[Clarke] creates books that taste like delicious cuts of absurdity marbled with erudition.” —The Washington Post

“A whiz-bang spy satire bundled in an edgy tale of redemption . . . His comedy of errors is impossible to put down.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A darkly hilarious novel . . . The writing is clever, the dialogue snappy and understated, and the effect is as pleasantly unsettling as anything Kurt Vonnegut Jr. ever wrote.” —The Portland Sun

“A zany and fast-paced book that explores the myriad ways people of all nations make themselves and others unhappy.” —Chicago Tribune, Printer’s Row

“Ranks among the funniest and most relevant social satires I’ve read . . . It might just make you the happiest reader in the world.” —The Dallas Morning News
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
People • The New York Times Magazine • NPR • Entertainment Weekly • New York • The Telegraph • BuzzFeed • Kirkus Reviews • BookPage • Shelf Awareness

One of the most important and blazingly original writers of his generation, George Saunders is an undisputed master of the short story, and Tenth of December is his most honest, accessible, and moving collection yet.
 
In the taut opener, “Victory Lap,” a boy witnesses the attempted abduction of the girl next door and is faced with a harrowing choice: Does he ignore what he sees, or override years of smothering advice from his parents and act? In “Home,” a combat-damaged soldier moves back in with his mother and struggles to reconcile the world he left with the one to which he has returned. And in the title story, a stunning meditation on imagination, memory, and loss, a middle-aged cancer patient walks into the woods to commit suicide, only to encounter a troubled young boy who, over the course of a fateful morning, gives the dying man a final chance to recall who he really is. A hapless, deluded owner of an antiques store; two mothers struggling to do the right thing; a teenage girl whose idealism is challenged by a brutal brush with reality; a man tormented by a series of pharmaceutical experiments that force him to lust, to love, to kill—the unforgettable characters that populate the pages of Tenth of December are vividly and lovingly infused with Saunders’s signature blend of exuberant prose, deep humanity, and stylistic innovation.
 
Writing brilliantly and profoundly about class, sex, love, loss, work, despair, and war, Saunders cuts to the core of the contemporary experience. These stories take on the big questions and explore the fault lines of our own morality, delving into the questions of what makes us good and what makes us human.
 
Unsettling, insightful, and hilarious, the stories in Tenth of December—through their manic energy, their focus on what is redeemable in human beings, and their generosity of spirit—not only entertain and delight; they fulfill Chekhov’s dictum that art should “prepare us for tenderness.”

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“The best book you’ll read this year.”—The New York Times Magazine
 
“A feat of inventiveness . . . This eclectic collection never ceases to delight with its at times absurd, surreal, and darkly humorous look at very serious subjects. . . . Saunders makes you feel as though you are reading fiction for the first time.”—Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner
 
“The best short-story writer in English—not ‘one of,’ not ‘arguably,’ but the Best.”—Mary Karr, Time
 
“A visceral and moving act of storytelling . . . No one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
“Saunders’s startling, dreamlike stories leave you feeling newly awakened to the world.”—People
 
“It’s no exaggeration to say that short story master George Saunders helped change the trajectory of American fiction.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
GEORGE SAUNDERS WAS NAMED ONE OF THE 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN THE WORLD BY TIME MAGAZINE


From the Hardcover edition.
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