The Price of the Haircut: Stories

Algonquin Books
Free sample

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 five novels, including the bestselling An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England, as well as three collections of short stories, the most recent being The Price of the Haircut. He lives in Portland, Maine, and teaches 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
“A wild ride of a book . . . A story in which anything and everything can happen, and mostly does. This is a book of many trips—across oceans, back to the past, and, most profoundly, into the infinite deep space of the human heart. Brock Clarke has given us a wonderful novel that bursts with all the meaty stuff of real life.” —Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
 
With the comic unpredictability of a Wes Anderson movie and the inventive sharpness of a John Irving novel, author Brock Clarke introduces readers to an ordinary man who is about to embark on an absurdly extraordinary adventure.

After his mother, a theologian and bestselling author, dies in a fiery explosion, forty-nine-year-old Calvin Bledsoe’s heretofore uninspired life is upended. A stranger shows up at the funeral, claiming to be Calvin’s aunt Beatrice, and insists that Calvin accompany her on a trip to Europe, immediately.

As he and Beatrice traverse the continent, it quickly becomes apparent that his aunt’s clandestine behavior is leading him into danger. Facing a comic menagerie of antiquities thieves, secret agents, religious fanatics, and an ex-wife who’s stalking him, Calvin begins to suspect there might be some meaning behind the madness. Maybe he’s not the person he thought he was? Perhaps no one is who they appear to be? But there’s little time for soul-searching, as Calvin first has to figure out why he has been kidnapped, why his aunt disappeared, and who the hell burned down his house.

Powered by pitch-perfect dialogue, lovable characters, and surprising optimism, Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe? is a modern-day Travels with My Aunt, a novel about grabbing life, and holding on—wherever it may take you.
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