Hark

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About The Book

A brilliant send-up of our contemporary culture from Sam Lipsyte, the critically acclaimed author of Home Land, centered around an unwitting mindfulness guru and the phenomenon he initiates.

In an America convulsed by political upheaval, cultural discord, environmental collapse, and spiritual confusion, many folks are searching for peace, salvation, and—perhaps most immediately—just a little damn focus. Enter Hark Morner, an unwitting guru whose technique of “Mental Archery”—a combination of mindfulness, mythology, fake history, yoga, and, well, archery—is set to captivate the masses and raise him to near-messiah status. It’s a role he never asked for, and one he is woefully underprepared to take on. But his inner-circle of modern pilgrims have other plans, as do some suddenly powerful fringe players, including a renegade Ivy League ethicist, a gentle Swedish kidnapper, a crossbow-hunting veteran of jungle drug wars, a social media tycoon with an empire on the skids, and a mysteriously influential (but undeniably slimy) catfish.

In this social satire of the highest order, Sam Lipsyte, the New York Times bestseller and master of the form, reaches new peaks of daring in a novel that revels in contemporary absurdity and the wild poetry of everyday language while exploring the emotional truths of his characters. Hark is a smart, incisive look at men, women, and children seeking meaning and dignity in a chaotic, ridiculous, and often dangerous world.

Excerpt

Hark One
Listen, before Hark, was it ever harder to be human? Was it ever harder to believe in our world?

The weather made us wonder. The markets had, the wars.

The rich had stopped pretending they were just the best of us, and not some utterly other form of life. The rest, the most, could glimpse their end on Earth, in the parched basins and roiling seas, but could not march against their masters. They slaughtered each other instead, retracted into glowing holes.

Hark glowed, too.

He came to us and was golden-y.

It wasn’t that Hark had the answer.

It was more that he didn’t.

All he possessed, he claimed, were a few tricks, or tips, to help people focus. At work. At home. Out for coffee with a client, or a friend.

(Listen, before Hark, was it ever harder to find focus?)

Hark gathered his tips together, called it mental archery. Pretty silly, he liked to say.

But some knew better. Some were certain he had a secret, a mystery, a miracle. For what was mental archery but the essence of Hark, and what was the essence of Hark but love?

In this hurt world, how could that hurt?

The hunters of meaning had found no meaning. The wanters of dreams were dreamless. Many now drifted toward Hark Morner.

This is, like, the backstory.

The front story is about a bunch of people and a movement they launched under the banner of Hark, a movement that maybe meant nothing at all. Or maybe it did mean something. It’s tough to tell. The past is tricky, often half hidden, like a pale, flabby young man flung naked into a crowded square. The past doesn’t stand there, grant ganders. The past clasps its crotch, scurries for the cover of stanchions, benches.

History hides. That’s its job. It hides behind other history.

Fraz Penzig, one of the front-story people, knows all about it. He used to teach some history, though he hasn’t taught it in a while, not since the middle school cut staff by a third. His wife, Tovah, told him that life is not a zero-sum game, but Fraz senses that if it were, he would be the zero sum.

Lucky for him that Tovah is still employed.

He’s grateful for the medical, though he happens to have his health at the moment. Not that it’s something you can ever truly own, or bequeath, like a house, or a houseboat, or a parcel of land in the hills, but Fraz does have his health.

Oh, maybe he feels frail on occasion, a tad pulped, bones shot, frequently fevered, on the verge of the verge of death, but make no mistake, he’s hardy. His twinges, his spasms, his stabby aches, they’re chronic, like all the other minor hurts, the gym injuries, the sprains achieved mysteriously on the can.

He’s terminal, but not quite near the terminus.

Like when he had that raisin on his head, went to the raisin doctor.

“It’s nothing,” the doctor said.

“Nothing?”

“I mean it’s something. It’s just what people get. On the way down. You want I light-saber that bad boy off?”

Also, forty-six years on this hard turd of a world and Fraz’s mind is still, by his lights, pure silk. He knows younger types already fried, or brined, not just with drugs or booze, but merely from rising in the morning, moving about in their private biospheres of panic and decay, the hours at work, the hours of work at home, the hours of work with spouses, fathers, mothers, children, the stresses laced into the simplest tasks, the fight-or-flight responses to kitchen appliances, not to mention the mighty common domes, with which the individual bubbles Venn: the fouled sky, the polluted food, the pharma-fed rivers full of sad-eyed Oxytrout, the jeans on outlet shelves in their modalities of size—skinny fit, classic fit, fat shepherd fit, all dyed a deep cancer blue. And the wave rot, of course, the pixel-assisted suicide, the screens, the screens, the screens.

Yes, Fraz is lucky, privileged, if you please, not just to be alive but to still live here, his locus, his home grove, the city that never sleeps, but paces its garret in a nervous rage, the city of his kin.

Once he had some vague ambitions, semi-valuable skills. Now he tutors schoolkids part-time, does favors for an old friend of his late father.

He’s also lucky Tovah’s affections don’t hinge on his ability to generate revenue. Or maybe her affections hinge on nothing now.

But fie on such wallow-world musings. Fie on these flurries of own-negs. Today he will shrug off the cape of self-hate. Fraz has upsides. He’s a doting father. He’s one of Hark’s apostles. He spreads the word. Also, he’s rich in nutrients, solid from the gym, with, despite a certain overspreading doughiness, some noteworthy detail on his tris and delts. Truth is, he’d rather be a male waif, but he got Jewed (he can say it) on the genetics. His narrow band of endomorphic choice will always come down to this: lard barn or semi-cut chunk.

Today he’s headed downtown for a meeting with the mental archery brain trust: Kate Rumpler, the young heiress who funds their institute; Teal Baker-Cassini, the discipline’s leading intellectual light; and Hark Morner himself, their radiant, inscrutable guru. They will take their booth at the Chakra Khan, sip kale-and-peppermint toddies. They have much to discuss. Demonstration videos. Scheduled appearances. The True Arrow, a new feed on Hark Hub.

Fraz wishes they could meet at a coffee bar, or a full-service bar, or a full-service meat cart. He likes the street meat, the tangy skewers. He doesn’t mind the toddies. But the candles, the garden scents, menace his dainty machismo.

Listen, such are the sacrifices one makes for the cause, for mental archery, for love.

About The Author

Ceridwen Morris

Sam Lipsyte is the author of the story collections Venus Drive (named one of the top twenty-five books of its year by the Voice Literary Supplement) and The Fun Parts and four novels: Hark, The AskThe Subject Steve, and Home Land, which was a New York Times Notable Book and received the first annual Believer Book Award. He is also the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship. He lives in New York City and teaches at Columbia University.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (January 2019)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501146060

Raves and Reviews

Advance Praise for Hark

“Madcap and full of love, laughter and unexpected beauty (not to mention the world’s greatest bone marrow smuggling scheme), if Hark doesn’t make you stalk Sam Lipsyte and try to break up his marriage, then you are not human.” —Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

"Wonderfully moving and beautifully musical, Lipsyte has penned a dastardly hysterical take on modern day rhetoric and the eternal ridiculousness of it all. More than a 'must read,' Hark is a 'must believe!'"  —Paul Beatty, author of The Sellout

Praise for Sam Lipsyte

“If you've heard anything about Sam Lipsyte, you've probably heard that he's funny. Scabrously, deliriously, piss-yourself funny (his characters would no doubt find a dirtier, and funnier, way of putting it), drawing audible snorts even from the kind of people, such as the people in his novels, who are way too cool to laugh out loud . . . Lipsyte's prose arrows fly with gloriously weird spin, tracing punch-drunk curlicues before hitting their marks--or landing in some weird alternate.” —Jennifer Schuessler, The New York Review of Books

“So let's read Lipsyte and rejoice; let's celebrate the laugh-producing Milo Burkes who are all too rarely brought to us by brave and bitter men--let's celebrate the canny, well-educated yet perpetually failing furtive Internet onanists, the dark, half-crippled, doughnut-gobbling man-apes of the literary world, who cast their lumpen shadows across the rest of us. These are the kind of unlikeable, lovable protagonists we miss; these are the self-loathing, mediocre secret geniuses who can set our people free.” —Lydia Millet, The New York Times Book Review

“It's customary for radically sardonic, corrosively funny writers to put in time as mere cult icons, but enough already: everybody should read Sam Lipsyte.” —TIME

“The riffs on fatherhood, work, and sex in Sam Lipsyte's unsparingly comic novel The Ask explode like a string of firecrackers--so funny you might lose an eye.” —Vanity Fair

“One of the greatest black-humorists alive, Lipsyte has gone unnoticed for far too long. With his third novel, about the painfully hilarious adventures of a failed painter in a dead-end job, he should finally get the acclaim he deserves.” —Details

“There's probably not a living American writer who has so comprehensively mined the comic possibilities of that particular anguished, hapless combination of the overeducated and the underachieving as Sam Lipsyte. Against all odds, his heroes refuse to succeed, and they and we are rewarded with the endlessly entertaining spectacle of their nonstop humiliation.” —Jim Shepard, Bookforum

“Lipsyte can't be matched...A literary rock star.” —The New York Times

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