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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.
About the Author
Brock Clarke is an award-winning author of seven previous works of fiction, including the bestselling An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England. He lives in Maine, and teaches at Bowdoin College.
Praise for The Price of the Haircut:
“Parts Donald Barthelme, Richard Powers, and George Saunders, Brock Clarke has distinguished himself as a writer fully in control of his ideas. Clarke's The Price of the Haircut is an impressive collection of stories . . . Clarke's created an impressive world here that's well worth visiting.”
“For those readers missing the regular output of Tom Robbins, this writer seems to be his natural heir. Clarke observes his characters with brutal attention to their weaknesses that borders on cruel, but he mitigates that look with outright funny and true observations. Take this book on vacation so everyone can wonder why you are laughing out loud.”
—Tulsa Book Review
“Full of sharp left turns and unexpected narrative choices, Clarke’s bleak yet hilarious collection constantly mixes the seemingly mundane with the profound . . . these stories often echo the absurdities of Donald Barthelme, Nikolai Gogol, Joshua Ferris, and David Foster Wallace. In trying to illuminate how we discuss race, war, and family dynamics, Clarke shows he is constantly willing to push boundaries. The resulting tales are hilarious, haunting, and original.”
—Booklist, starred review
“Clarke’s disquieting, droll work reflects humanity like a dark fun house mirror.”
“In these stories, Brock Clarke dissects human nature in a way even a casual reader would understand and enjoy. These profound short stories are highly entertaining and enjoyable.”
—The Washington Book Review
"There aren’t enough superlatives to praise Brock Clarke’s extraordinary new collection. . . Clarke is outrageously inventive. He has a masterful command of voice, style, and character, and an off-key humor which is often mind-boggling . . . the stories in The Price of the Haircut are a series of unexpected, rewarding pleasures. They are the finest products of an accomplished writer with a unique mind.”
—Washington Independent Review of Books
“The characters that populate these acerbic stories have made a fine art out of self-delusion and self-sabotage—and their various unspoolings are equal parts blistering and riveting. The Price of the Haircut is Brock Clarke at his satiric best.”
—Laura van den Berg, author of Find Me
“Brock Clarke is such a funny writer you might make the mistake of thinking these stories are pure, light fun. You'd be wrong about that. The Price of the Haircut kept catching me by surprise with the depth of its insights and the depths Clarke was willing to plumb. There's a savage soul in each of these wonderfully constructed tales. Brock Clarke wields his wit like a sword."
—Victor LaValle, author of The Ballad of Black Tom and The Changeling
“Brock Clarke's superb stories—exemplars of tragicomic voice and escalation—move ever forward on the tracks of his characters' rigorous but self-delusional logic. What a pleasure it is to read an artist who is in such complete control of talent and technique.”
—Chris Bachelder, author of The Throwback Special
“Absurd and astonishing . . . [Clarke] wields this tool masterfully, bringing the strangeness of mankind to the forefront in a bid to expose the ridiculous nature of our society and the things we value. By the end of this collection, Clarke has dedicated his eccentric combination of absurd comedy and gut-wrenching tragedy to a range of contemporary themes.”
Praise for Brock Clarke:
“Another literary high-wire performance by a novelist who is establishing himself as a unique voice in contemporary fiction.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred and later chosen as one of the year’s best)
“Heart-rending and comically absurd.”
—The New York Times
“[Clarke] creates books that taste like delicious cuts of absurdity marbled with erudition.”
—The Washington Post