Books by Brock Clarke
The Price of the Haircut: Stories
“Clarke’s disquieting, droll work reflects humanity like a dark fun house mirror.”
This new collection of stories is bursting with absurdist plot twists and laced with trenchant wit. The title story delivers a cringingly biting dissection of racial attitudes in contemporary America, and you’ll also find subjects covered 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.”
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.
Other Books by Brock
In addition to The Price of the Haircut, Brock is the author of six other books including The Happiest People in the World, Exley, the national bestseller An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, The Ordinary White Boy, and two collections of short stories.
The Happiest People in the World: A Novel
“Clarke has a distinctively winning style. He imagines characters so careful in their reasoning that they are deeply, maddeningly unreasonable but also tenderly hapless at the same time. Mr. Clarke is able to make their isolation both heart-rending and comically absurd.”
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, The Happiest People in the World.
“Oddly brilliant . . . The luminously engaging plot reveals the deceptions we cling to in order to survive. . . . Clarke’s breathtaking creativity gives unexpected power to his quirky, touching story.
For young Miller Le Ray, life has become a search. A search for his dad, who may or may not have joined the army and gone to Iraq. A search for a notorious (and, unfortunately, deceased) writer, Frederick Exley, author of the “fictional memoir” A Fan’s Notes, who may hold the key to bringing Miller’s father back. But most of all, a search for truth. For Miller’s therapist, Dr. Pahnee, his patient is an increasingly baffling conundrum, a dedicated truth-teller who hasn’t a clue as to the difference between fact and fiction.
In Brock Clarke’s smart, spirited novel about the differences between what we believe to be real and what is in fact real, we encounter a world that is both familiar and strangely disorienting, thought-provoking and wildly entertaining.
An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England
“A witty, intensely clever piece of writing that scrutinizes our relationship with stories and storytelling. . . . Clarke composes with panache, packing his pages with offbeat humor, vibrant characters, and tender scenes.”
A lot of remarkable things have happened in the life of Sam Pulsifer, the hapless hero of this incendiary novel, beginning with the ten years he spent in prison for accidentally burning down Emily Dickinson’s house and unwittingly killing two people. Emerging at age twenty-eight, he creates a new life and identity as a husband and father. But when the homes of other famous New England writers suddenly go up in smoke, he must prove his innocence by uncovering the identity of this literary-minded arsonist.
An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England is a literary tour de force—a brilliant skewering of every memoir every written and a novel that will have readers underlining their favorite passages and reading them aloud.
The Ordinary White Boy
“Equal parts ironic and provocative, an imaginary blend of Douglas Coupland and Cornel West.”
Lamar Kerry, Jr., is an unlikely hero. At twenty-seven years old he can’t dance unless he’s had more than a few drinks. His wardrobe is uninspired, at best. He has returned after college to Little Falls, his miserable, working-class hometown in upstate New York, deflating everyone’s expectations of him in so doing. He’s over-educated, overconfident, fundamentally bright, but mostly going nowhere. When the town’s only Latino, Lamar’s former high school classmate, goes missing and is feared dead, Lamar—done with being a disappointment to his father and his girlfriend—decides to break out of the ordinary by solving the case, the roots of which may be in the town’s racist undercurrent. Will the ordinary white boy achieve the extraordinary in Little Falls? In a voice both tender and biting, Brock Clarke mingles subtle social criticism with laugh-out-loud funny observations, crafting in Lamar a character both unforgettable and universal, a character that will live long and proud in American literature.
Short Story Collections
What We Won’t Do
“Placing real people in surreal situations and juxtaposing the everyday and the absurd, Clarke illuminates the depths of the human soul. Furthermore, his stories of disappointment and defeat, resentment and stubborn pride, failure embraced and success shrugged aside repeatedly jab the underbelly of the American dream.”
Winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction
Welcome to the strange, wonderful world of Brock Clarke. Nestled in-between the green mountains of the Adirondacks and hazardous fiberglass plants, this amusement park of stories will never cease to amaze you. Reaffirming that “life, at its core, is embarrassing,” What We Won’t Do is a collection of tales about the miseries of the average, blue-collar worker who is anything but average. Compassionate and humorous, these stories portray the Homer Simpsons and Archie Bunkers of the world, Knut Hamsun style. Clarke’s understanding of all of our “accidental evil, rank insecurity, and plain human weakness” is more than insightful; it’s downright funny.
Carrying the Torch
“Be prepared to be surprised on every page of Clarke’s collection of brilliant short stories.”
Winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction
The stories in this collection occupy a world at once as familiar as a suburban backyard or a southern college’s hallowed football field and as strange as a man who buys Savannah, Georgia, and tries to turn it into the perfect Southern city as part of his attempt to win back his estranged wife. The fictional territory of Carrying the Torch, is one in which the surreal and the hilarious share a neighborhood with the painfully real and the sweetly ironic. Here readers will encounter characters dislocated by work and love, by huge losses and life’s small dramas, men and women who have migrated South in search of redemption—or at least in the hope of leaving the worst behind.