An “extremely funny...brilliantly alive” (The New York Times Book Review) social satire of the highest order from bestselling author Sam Lipsyte, centered around an unwitting mindfulness guru and the phenomenon he initiates.
In an America convulsed by political upheaval, cultural discord, environmental catastrophe, and spiritual confusion, so many of us find ourselves anxious and distracted, searching desperately for peace, salvation, and—perhaps most immediately—just a little damn focus. Enter Hark Morner, a failed stand-up comic turned mindfulness guru whose revolutionary program is set to captivate the masses. But for Fraz and Tovah, a middle-aged couple slogging through a very rough patch, it may take more than the tenets of Hark’s “Mental Archery” to solve the riddles of love, lust, work, and parenthood on the eve of civilizational collapse. And given the sudden power of certain fringe players, including a renegade Ivy League ethicist, a gentle Swedish kidnapper, a social media tycoon with an empire on the skids, and a mysteriously influential (but undeniably slimy) catfish, it just might be too late. But what’s the point of a world, even a blasted-out post-apocalyptic world, if they don’t try with all their might to keep their marriage alive?
In this “awfully funny...tartly effective sendup of 21st-century America” (Star Tribune, Minneapolis) Sam Lipsyte 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. “Recommended reading” (Vanity Fair), in which “every line feels as thrillingly charged as a live wire” (O, The Oprah Magazine), Hark is a smart, incisive look at men, women, and children seeking meaning and dignity in a chaotic, ridiculous, and often dangerous world.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
With laser-sharp observations and a frenetic wit, novelist Sam Lipsyte skewers the self-improvement industry. The highly topical Hark follows a crew of damaged seekers. Oppressed by technology and desperate for focus and calm, they pin their hopes on the book’s titular guru: a failed comedian who has stumbled upon a successful shtick. There are no heroes in Lipsyte’s satirical misadventure; instead, he presents a gloriously jumbled assortment of misfits, heiresses, and depressives, thrown together as they look for life’s answers in all the wrong places. We tore through this dark and funny novel in a happy flash.
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.
Full disclosure: I haven't finished the book. About halfway through and I just can't convince myself to go on. Dreary. The characters are off-putting in the extreme. This book is getting me depressed and I don't mean figuratively. I am saddened when I read this. When clever restaurant names and food descriptions are the high point of a novel, it's time to do some laundry. Or file my taxes. Anything to get my mind off Hark and his disciples.