The title story delivers a cringingly biting dissection of racial attitudes in contemporary America, and Clarke also turns his eagle eye to subjects like PTSD, the fate of child actors, and, most especially, marital discord in stories like “Considering Lizzie Borden, Her Axe, My Wife” and “The Misunderstandings.” In “The Pity Palace,” a masterful study in self-absorption and self-delusion, a reclusive husband in Florence, Italy, who believes his wife has left him for a famous novelist, sells tickets to tourists anxious to meet someone more miserable than they.
It’s a distinctly Clarkean world, in which readers find themselves reflected back with the distortion of funhouse mirrors—and swept up on a wild ride of heart-wrenching insight and self-discovery.
Brock Clarke is the author of two previous story collections and four novels, most recently The Happiest People in the World, Exley (named a Kirkus Book of the Year), and An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England (a national bestseller). He lives in Portland, Maine, and teaches creative writing at Bowdoin College.
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