Hark A novel

Sam Lipsyte, 1968-

Book - 2019

Hark Morner, the unwitting guru behind "Mental Archery"--a combination of mindfulness, mythology, fake history, yoga, and archery--is set to be raised to near-messiah status, a role for which he is woefully underprepared.

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Humorous fiction
New York, NY : Simon & Schuster 2019.
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Physical Description
284 pages ; 22 cm
Main Author
Sam Lipsyte, 1968- (author)
Review by New York Times Review

THE HEARTBEAT OF WOUNDED KNEE: Native America From 1890 to the Present, by David Treuer. (Riverhead, $28.) This response to Dee Brown's "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" highlights the numerous achievements of Native Americans over the past century, and celebrates their resilience and adaptability in the face of prejudice, violence and the many other obstacles placed in their way. HARK, by Sam Lipsyte. (Simon & Schuster, $27.) The attraction and repulsion between a would-be messiah and his apostle anchors this madcap skewering of contemporary culture packed with fake gurus, cheating spouses, junk-food obsessions and yoga. INHERITANCE: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love, by Dani Shapiro. (Knopf, $24.95.) A DNA test submitted on a whim upends Shapiro's assumptions about her family history and forms the basis for her new book, a searching exploration of the power of blood ties to shape our sense of who we are. AN ORCHESTRA OF MINORITIES, by Chigozie Obioma. (Little, Brown, $28.) A sweeping epic centered on a fraught romance between a humble poultry farmer and the daughter of a prosperous chief, Obioma's new novel travels from rural Nigeria to Cyprus and to the cosmic domain of the Igbo guardian spirit who watches over and recounts the proceedings. ARISTOTLE'S WAY: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life, by Edith Hall. (Penguin Press, $27.) Aristotle was concerned with how to achieve a virtuous, happy life. Hall sees his answer as a source of great comfort, his most important insight being that people need to find their own purpose and search out a middle way - "nothing in excess," the philosopher said. THE WORLD ACCORDING TO FANNIE DAVIS: My Mother's Life in the Detroit Numbers, by Bridgett M. Davis. (Little, Brown, $28.) Davis's heartwarming memoir honors her remarkable mother, who made a good life for her family in the '60s and '70s. THE FALCONER, by Dana Czapnik. (Atria, $25.) In this electric debut novel, 17-year-old Lucy's coming-of-age is powerfully shaped by her encounters with basketball and New York City itself, even as she constantly brushes up against the constrictions society places on her sex. IN MY MIND'S EYE: A Thought Diary, by Jan Morris. (Liveright, $24.95.) The beloved nonagenarian writer shares a year of observations - of herself and of the changes she's observed. TO NIGHT OWL FROM DOGFISH, by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer. (Dial, $17.99; ages 9 to 12.) Told in a series of frantic emails and other correspondence, this hilarious novel follows two girls who have never met - one in California, one in New York - who learn that their single dads plan to marry each other. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web: nytimes.com/books

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [March 11, 2019] Review by 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

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's 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.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by 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.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by 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.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.