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Hark : a novel / Sam Lipsyte.

By: Lipsyte, Sam, 1968-.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: London, England : Granta, 2019Copyright date: ©2019Description: 284 pages ; 22 cm.Content type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9781783783212; 1783783214.Subject(s): Gurus -- Fiction | Popular culture -- FictionGenre/Form: Satirical literature | Humorous fiction.DDC classification: 813.6 Summary: 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, author of the bestselling novel The Ask 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 - men, women and children seeking meaning and dignity in a chaotic, ridiculous and often dangerous world.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

A riotous novel of awkward believers, floundering marriages and our maladjusted 21st century, from one of America's sharpest satirists - for fans of Gary Shteyngart, Paul Murray and Larry David.

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, author of the bestselling novel The Ask 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 - men, women and children seeking meaning and dignity in a chaotic, ridiculous and often dangerous world.

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

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. Excerpted from Hark by Sam Lipsyte All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

Hark Morner has developed something called mental archery, replete with bow-and-arrow allusions and 52 exercises/poses aimed at getting people to "focus"-although upon what Hark can't or won't say-and he becomes an unwitting guru when a small band of followers promote his program into a global phenomenon. In the near-future that serves as setting, the world is in apparent chaos (at least there's a massive ground war in Europe, with sides not clearly determined), and people grasp at any bit of hope, although the program certainly has its detractors. Hark, iconic and laconic, is content to coast along, only at the end recognizing that he has missed a broader mission. And the end? Hark is martyred (with an arrow, no less) just after he "raises" the daughter of his principle disciple, but the disciples suspect he is not "gone," and indeed he reappears at times, although not corporeally. Hints of a Christ story that floats around throughout the novel are more pronounced in the closing pages. VERDICT This work is clever but not as hilarious as advertised. The writing is fluid and stylish, and though a slow start might lose many readers, the pace does accelerate. Has Lipsyte (The Fun Parts) written a tonic for our times? Maybe. [See Prepub Alert, 7/16/18.]-Robert E. Brown, Oswego, NY © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

Lipsyte (The Fun Parts) pillories the mindfulness movement in this acerbic and surprisingly moving novel of a hesitant guru and his self-involved inner circle. Failed comic Hark Morner writes a book and launches an unexpected craze for "mental archery," a practice combining disconnected ramblings of invented history, opaque aphorisms, and yogalike poses. Among his devoted inner circle are Kate, an aimless and wealthy 20-something who finances the movement; Teal, a convicted embezzler and unlicensed marriage therapist; and Fraz, a middle-aged man disappointed by his career stagnation and tense marriage. Hark rejects their schemes to monetize his teachings and offers only oblique answers to questions, saying that the only point is to focus. Facing pressures from tech magnate Dieter Delgado, who wants to co-opt mental archery, Hark retreats to the Upstate New York home of true believer Meg. When Fraz accidentally injures his young daughter, he pleads for Hark to call for a worldwide focus to help her survive a coma, leading to a wild conclusion an unexpected denouement. This is a searing exploration of desperate hopes, and Lipsyte's potent blend of spot-on satire, menacing bit players, and deadpan humor will delight readers. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

A mindfulness guru and the seekers who surround him animate this comic meditation on technology, authenticity, and end-times anxiety by celebrated satirist Lipsyte (The Ask, 2010). It's not that Hark, peddler of koan-like wisdom on the theme of mental archery, has all the answers. On stage at corporate gigs, or online at Hark Hub, mostly he's just free-associating, riffing on bow-and-arrow metaphors, exploring (and perhaps exploiting) the overlap between the vague and the profound. Yet to his followers slacker-dad Fraz; road-team Seth and Teal; Kate, an accidental murderer; the mysterious Meg217 Harkism is a lifeline, the chance to master their private biospheres of panic and decay. Lipsyte suggests that Hark may be a huckster, unworthy of his disciples' devotion, but his most heartfelt concerns crystallize around Fraz, who, despite his proximity to Hark, cannot resuscitate his marriage or save his kids from a degraded, distracted future. Lots of characters and a jumbly plot make for a clamorous read. But Lipsyte also offers high-velocity moments in which bleakness and humor, the quotidian and the apocalyptic all gloriously converge.--Brendan Driscoll Copyright 2018 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

A reluctant messiah inspires people to focus in a time of chaos.Lipsyte (The Fun Parts: Stories, 2012, etc.) assembles a motley ensemble for his first novel since The Ask (2010) put him squarely on America's literary map, but it's mostly a sour, disaffecting experience that's reflective of our troubled times. The novel's central character is a guru-light type named Hark Morner who preaches a New Age-y discipline called "Mental Archery," a goofy combination of mindfulness, made-up history, some yoga, and visualizations based around archery. Unfortunately, Lipsyte assembles his story through the point of view of the supporting characters, most of whom are miserable misanthropes when they're not around Hark. The author's primary avatar is Frank "Fraz" Penzig, whose primary characteristics are being the "old guy" at 46 years old, locked in a miserable, combative marriage with his wife, Tovah, and father to two kids. Also floating around is their patron, Kate Rumpler, who's a felon due to having offed her pervert uncle and supremely rich since her parents crashed their private plane, and Teal Baker-Cassini, the intellectual who lends Hark's harebrained discipline some credibility. There are no real villains here, barring the tech titan who wants to commercialize Hark's movement and a weird cult that shows up late in the game to oppose it. As usual, Lipsyte's command of language is sublimeHark's directive to "Actuate the world" could come straight out of the Silicon Valley parodies that are so prolific latelybut the dubious premise and deeply unlikable characters sour the already-tart satire that the author is proposing. The book has its twists: After Hark has a meltdown in St. Louis and one of the cast members suffers a potentially heartbreaking grievance, there's an opportunity to shift the narrative to a more believable scenario, but instead the story descends into its own sad, inevitable stew of nonsense.Magical realism works great for some authors, but Lipsyte ends up closer to the ending of the television show Lost than to any substantial prosecution of contemporary society. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.