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Author to speak about new book of short stories in Brooklyn

March 16, 2018 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brock Clarke. Photo taken by Selby Frame
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From an author The New York Times calls “heart-rending and comically absurd” comes a collection of stories bursting with absurdist plot twists and laced with trenchant wit.

“The Price of The Haircut: Stories” by Brock Clarke, author of the bestselling novel “An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England,” features 11 wickedly funny and unsettling stories that cover hefty subjects such as PTSD, the fate of child actors and marital discord. On Wednesday, March 21, Clark will speak about his new book at Books Are Magic.

Each of Clarke’s stories offers a complete submersion into a whimsically distorted world: In “The Pity Place,” a lonely man in Florence, Italy, tries to win back his wife — who may or may not exist — from the novelist Mario Puzo, who may or may not still be alive.

In “Concerning Lizzie Borden, Her Axe, My Wife,” a husband and wife try to get beyond a marital speed bump and decide to spend a night in the bed and breakfast that was once the home of infamous axe-murderer Lizzie Borden. In “Children Who Divorce,” the child actors from the movie “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” re-create their roles in a dinner theater sequel, but despite having grown older, they have never actually grown up.

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The title story, which takes place after a black teenager is shot by a white policeman, delivers a sharp and biting dissection of racial attitudes in contemporary America. “I moved to Cincinnati in June 2001, two months after an unarmed 19-year-old black man named Timothy Thomas was shot and killed by a white city policeman named Stephen Roach,” Clarke explains.

“This was a familiar story then, and it’s an even more familiar story now … Not long after I moved to the city, a national magazine asked me if I’d be interested in writing an essay about race and post-riot Cincinnati … I could have written the essay … in a more conventional way, but I suspected that it would end up being like many of the essays devoted to the subject — then, and since: literal-minded, sober dutiful, dull.

“And so instead, I wrote a short story, a fable, in which a riot-torn city claims that the riots were caused not by white city policemen killing unarmed black men, but by a white barber saying racist things while giving very cheap haircuts, which then causes four supposedly right-minded white men to suspend their political beliefs in pursuit of those very cheap haircuts.”

Laced with humor and written in Clarke’s characteristically understated style, “The Price of The Haircut: Stories” charms readers with its wit, mischief, surprises and unerring insight into the human psyche.

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