Lundgren’s Book Lounge: “The Happiest People in the World,” by Brock Clarke

categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence

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Brock Clarke at Books and Books, Miami

Brock Clarke at Books and Books, Miami

Brock Clarke is one of the funniest writers I have ever read, but to categorize him as a humor writer would be a huge disservice. Beneath the humor is a sly and wry commentary on contemporary culture that will linger long after the laughter has abated. Clarke’s latest novel, The Happiest People in the World will certainly tickle your funny bone but it will also make you ruminate on the absurdity of a society obsessed with security and the underlying paranoia that results when everyone seems to be watching everyone else–and taking notes.

brockHere’s the scenario, taken right out of the headlines from a few years past; a Dutch cartoonist named Jens Baedrup has gotten himself in hot water by drawing a caricature of Muhammad that many Muslims have deemed to be offensive. The ensuing riots across the Islamic world lead to a typically wacky CIA solution–they burn downs Jens’ house, claiming he perished in the fire and then they relocate him to a small town in upstate New York, where he is given a new name and a job as a guidance counsellor in the local high school.

What ensues is a rollicking, madcap comedy that is also wildly subversive. Nearly everyone in this small town is a CIA operative and the criss-crossing love relationships, infused with copious amounts of drugs and alcohol and firearms and a paranoia that, in the aftermath of 9/11, has become emblematic of the U.S. citizenry and you have a hint of what is in store for you in this marvelously entertaining novel. Or as Lauren Groff describes it, “Playful and deliciously skewed, and somehow balancing between genuinely great-hearted and gloriously weird.”

Brock will be reading from this latest work at Longfellow Books this Tuesday, Nov 4th at 7 p.m. There will be lots of gorgeous sentences and bad wine, as we celebrate the exceptional literary community in which we live here in Portland, Maine.

[Bill Lundgren is a writer and blogger, also a bookseller at Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine (“A Fiercely Independent Community Bookstore”).  He keeps a bird named Ruby, and teaches at Southern Maine Community College.]

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