HARRY, REVISED. (Bloomsbury
- May 2008)
A DENVER POST BEST BOOK OF 2008
A SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLERS ASSOCIATION
FINALIST FOR FICTION PRIZE
NOW IN PAPERBACK!
READING GROUP GUIDE AVAILABLE
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Harry, Revised is the story of Harry Rent, a guilt-ridden,
down-on-his-luck widower, who tries to reinvent himself following
his wife's untimely death. His emotional journey takes him
from his own solipsistic and outrageously misdirected fantasies
about an obsidian-haired, twenty-two-year-old waitress at
his local greasy spoon, to the tenuous beginnings of an actual,
At once deeply moving and darkly comedic, Harry, Revised
is an extraordinary novel about the measure of a man's worth
by a wonderful, emerging talent.
FROM BARNES & NOBLE
“Mark Sarvas's first novel is
funny and sad, rueful, wised-up and curiously moving. A remarkable
— John Banville, winner of the Man Booker Prize for The
“As witty, erudite and outrageous as Waugh, with a flawed
hero worthy of Roth. A marvelous, enviable debut.”
—Andrew Sean Greer, The Confessions of Max Tivoli.
“Mark Sarvas's debut novel is fun, fast and heartfelt, an
exemplar of the Coming-of-Middle-Age novel in which an overgrown
boy finally learns to grow up and deal with the world with greater
compassions and maturity - even if that's no guarantee he won't
stop running into things.”
— Joshua Ferris, National Book Award finalist for Then
We Came to the End.
“Harry, Revised is immensely readable, very funny
and rich with earned emotion - the sort of novel (rare in this
age) that one reads in one or two sittings, and that moves as
much as it makes one laugh.”
— David Leavitt, The Indian Clerk.
“Mark Sarvas has created an enormously compelling character
in Harry Rent, a man less at odds with himself than with certain
personas the modern world forces us to inhabit. His ethical and
emotional dilemmas drive the story and make Harry, Revised
a scathingly funny but also wise and tender debut.”
— Sam Lipsyte, Home Land
"In language at turns erudite and
lowbrow, Mark Sarvas creates in Harry, Revised a character and
a world almost too easy to enjoy, seeing how gloriously enjoyable
he makes the writing of the book appear ... He sets out for a
humorous take on an everyman's existential crisis, one tempered
with regret and despair (and sprinkled with literary quips and
in-jokes), that makes the reader chuckle and nod in sympathetic
camaraderie. All of these things he masters with apparent ease
... Sarvas achieves something rare in Harry, Revised. A deceptively
easy, immediately engaging read, the novel secretes small truths
among its wisecracks and pastiche. As a comic novel, Harry, Revised
ranks among the best of its kind. At the same time, its language
elevates it to literary success."
— The Australian
"Sarvas has a sure hand for vivisecting
21st-century absurdities; his pièce de résistance has Harry tagging
along to Anna’s masochistic spin class, complete with European
techno, “Excessive Head Motion Lady,” and an instructor with a
“mystical presence” and skintight shorts. BUY IT."
"... a deeply felt and often hilarious
book of mock heroics."
— Time Out, New York
"... poignant ... blisteringly
funny ... "
— The Guardian
“If there was ever a person who could
use some revision, it's Harry. A black-and-white sketch of this
antihero looks pretty unsympathetic - he's a paunchy, self-absorbed
neurotic who cheats on his wife weekly with prostitutes. A creep,
you could say. Luckily, as he gets filled in with the colors of
author Sarvas' full palette, Harry begins to look much more human.
Sarvas, a first-time novelist, who keeps the literary blog the
Elegant Variation, has built an entertaining book around this
character sketch. He also has a neat knack for revealing information
slowly, allowing the story to unfold like a mystery of sorts -
which, actually, is more or less what it is. It's a marriage mystery,
a whodunit of what-went-wrong. ... throughout the novel, Sarvas
gives us beautiful bits of wisdom about marriage, which is really
what this story is about. This is a book for grown-ups, for people
who know how complex adult relationships are”
— Philadelphia Inquirer
"Sarvas is a wonderfully original writer
— The Times (UK)
"Impressively witty first novel
from founder of the popular literary blog "The Elegant
Variation." This moving tale of Harry's attempts to transform
himself after the death of his wife is as darkly funny as
it is wise."
— Idaho Statesman
“Despite [his] shortcomings, Harry's
ability to lose himself in his own outrageous thoughts and
his slow turn toward confidence come across with heart. Yes,
Harry's a major league dolt, but, to Sarvas' credit, we end
up pulling for him.” "
— Los Angeles Times
“Beautiful and heartfelt ... the
narrative is constantly inventive, messing with chronology,
giving Harry depth even when he's acting like a Class A schmuck."
— Word Magazine (UK)
" ... the uninformed reader of
this work might be forgiven for assuming he had stumbled upon
some minor classic of the 1970s, whose author had won comparisons
to John Updike and Philip Roth. ... Sarvas' compact, elegantly
paced and pleasingly understated novel recalls a more literate
and patient era ... At its best, Sarvas' prose seems effortless...
— Chicago Tribune
“Mark Sarvas's debut novel, Harry Revised,
reminds one that, quite possibly, we have too many funny male
writers below the middle age in America today. Not just funny
but intelligent, generally skillful writers with a fine understanding
of American life particularly within
an affluent, educated, urban class of citizens. ... deft one-liners,
jokes and elegantly-turned insights ... goodwill, good lines and
well-turned jokes ... "
— Boston Globe
"Sarvas is funny and Harry, with
his endless navel-gazing and unsympathetic self-indulgence, is
an amusingly hapless and predictably cringe-inducing character
— The Observer (UK)
"Sarvas, a critic who runs the
literary blog the Elegant Variation, knows how to structure a
story: He deftly withholds key information about Anna and Harry’s
marriage, seamlessly alternates between past and present, and
superbly maintains pacing. He also captures the way in which some
of life’s most dramatic moments are shot through with banality,
as when Harry is preparing to make a profound confession to Anna
and sees “that mechanical pencil, still under the couch, where
it rolled last summer. The chipped paint on Anna’s toenails. That
her right big toe is slightly larger than her left.” Harry is
a genuinely likable character in spite of his shortcomings, and
the reader roots for him in his quest for enlightenment and transformation."
"Self-loathing was never so funny,
and Sarvas's depiction of his downward spiraling anti-hero is
— Los Angeles Magazine
"SoCal literati know Sarvas through
his popular litblog, The Elegant Variation. Now, they'll know
him for his impressive debut, a funny, poignant novel about
middle-aged widower Harry Rent, whose wife's untimely death
sends the flawed protagonist on a journey of personal transformation"
— Westways Magazine
’Mark Sarvas’ book about Harry is
a wonderful comedy … On the surface it is a light story, but
it has more to offer. Here several facets of The American
Dream meet. Harry is a romantic comedy with dark undertones
and an ending that is not quite Hollywood. This is brilliant
entertainment with something more.’
— Morten Abrahamsen, VG (Norway)
"The recently widowed Harry is
a bumbling but lion-hearted man who is trying to steer his less-than-interesting
life out of numbing age. This novel ... was snapped up in a bidding
frenzy at the end of 2007, assuring a huge interest in the author,
Mark Sarvas, who was already known as a lit' blogger. Sarvas clearly
loves his characters. Harry's hideous ex-in-laws are cruel and
over-moneyed. But while his courage fails him in the face of these
WASPish horrors, his gentle, if misplaced, love for his local
waitress, Molly, and his unsubtle attempts to help Molly's impoverished
friend, Lucille, show us a character of such tender depth. A marvellous,
often comic and moving tale."
— Harpers Bazaar (Australia)
"Harry, Revised is an entertaining
read from the word go. It's a bittersweet debut from Mark Sarvas,
and one that I recommend for that bit of escapism we sometimes
— Comsopolitan (Australia)
"Sarvas provides humorous accounts
of even the most mundane aspects of his character’s life ... For
the most part, the humour stems not from witty one-liners but
through the predicaments in which Sarvas continually places Harry
... [Sarvas] delivers a first novel that – continually amusing
us with the simple and fault-ridden Harry – never feels like one."
— New Zealand Listener
"Harry Rent makes great (and often
hilarious) mistakes in his personal life, and he isn't always
likeable. Yet we want to cheer him on as he attempts to reinvent
himself. ... Sarvas has, without a doubt, succeeded in creating
a perfectly imperfect but intriguing protagonist in Harry Rent.
"Harry, Revised" will make you cringe, laugh and cry,
sometimes all within a few pages. But Sarvas reminds us that while
we might make a mess of our lives through selfishness, we also
possess that very human capacity to repair the world in little
ways, through simple but potent acts of kindness."
— El Paso Times
" ... endlessly inventive ... a
cram of darkly hilarious scenes: the restaurant couple with a
funeral urn; Harry's tie getting covered with jam and then caught
in the coffin at his wife's funeral ... the story is at its best
when deepened by moments of blank terror and desolation. ... By
the end, there is precarious hope for a man whose purpose seems
to be to provide that which needs to be cleaned up."
— New Zealand Herald
"... though there may be legions
of writers spurned by his blog just willing for Sarvas to fail,
this is a self-assured, comic and satisfying story."
— Publishers Weekly
"The book is fast-paced; there
are nice comic touches; and Harry is, finally, rather compelling,
selfish and damaged but recognizably human."
— Kirkus Reviews
"Sarvas, writer of the highly praised
literary blog, The Elegant Variation, has written a brilliantly
funny and heart-wrenching first novel about one man's struggle
to face the truth. ... Harry Rent is of the same ilk as Walter
Mitty and Rabbit Angstrom: deeply flawed, likable, and hilariously,
touchingly memorable. Highly recommended ... "
— Library Journal (Starred review)
"The founder of the Elegant Variation,
a popular literary blog, makes a winning debut with this smart
and funny novel about a hapless widower struggling to better himself.
... Out of Harry’s transformation, Sarvas weaves a moving story
of redemption, a wryly funny take on self-improvement, and a reassuringly
optimistic view of human nature."