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The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure: Storiesby Jack Pendarvis
Pendarvis devises small worlds inhabited by the strangest people: A teenager reveals his ingenious idea for a revenge comic book series called "Sex Devil"; the mercilessly redundant owner of a "High, Squeaky Voice" dreams of his audio book career; and the self-appointed small-town historian narrator of the title piece steals lies and cheats himself into the oddest of fixes. Skewed, silly, and really, really funny, Pendarvis's humor is somewhat akin to a Southern Gothic David Sedaris.
Synopses & Reviews
Laugh-out-loud funny and dripping with style, this debut collection of stories holds a fun house mirror to the everyday lives of characters as empathetic as they are absurd.
You've met the characters in The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure. They're the quirky visionaries and misguided dreamers we all know — and might even be. These characters are absurd, hilarious, and completely believable. From the self-appointed historian of the title piece to the frustrated wage slaves of "Our Spring Catalog" and "The Pipe," these are individualists who don't quite adhere to mainstream ideals. Pendarvis draws his humor from the world of high school ambitions and misunderstood intentions allowed to breathe and take shape.
Always original but somehow familiar, these are stories plugged into the collective unconscious of our imaginary lives. Jack Pendarvis's work is difficult to describe but a pleasure to experience, infused with humanity and laugh-out-loud funny. Comedic literary talent of this caliber is rare.
"As the saying goes, 'dying is easy, comedy is hard.' This facile collection of funny-guy stories by Pushcart Prize — winner Pendarvis mocks convention by piling together mock author blurbs, mock contributor's notes and mock publisher catalogue copy, plus a novella-length detective story that mocks the very idea of narrative and structure. Pendarvis's writing isn't without its pleasures; at his best, the author displays a wit comparable to the best found online at McSweeney's. And when he allows his characters to develop and his ideas to coalesce, as in 'The Pipe,' a story about a disc jockey who buries himself alive as a promotional stunt and the security guard and EMT who are assigned to watch him, his writing can be affecting as well as funny. But other times his stories read like the sketch that didn't make the cut on Saturday Night Live. For instance, 'My High, Squeaky Voice' is a two-and-half-page piffle about a guy with a high, squeaky voice who desperately wants to do voice work for audiobooks. And readers know pretty much everything they need to know about 'Dear People Magazine, Keep Up the Great Cyclopes Coverage' by the time they've finished the title. Pendarvis has comic talent, but he tends to squander it on the merely silly." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] charming pastiche of Southern wit, with characters evoked through humorous asides and eccentric tendencies....While the literary jabs found here are highly entertaining...it's the depictions of fragile humanity and the subtle social critiques that are truly affecting." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Manages to achieve a brutal poignancy...even when Pendarvis is merely funny, he is still very, very funny." Ana Godbersen, Esquire
"Fans of early T.C. Boyle and, oddly, Samuel Beckett will enjoy these treks into deep chasms of absurdity." George Singleton, Paste magazine
"A kind of ruthless, terrible humor that can provoke utterly helpless laughter." The New Orleans Times-Picayune
"If Sedaris had a deep-Southern accent and wrote fiction. If Beckett watched too much cable TV. If Kafka was a really funny guy. Aw, forget it. Here comes Jack Pendarvis with one crazy hilarious collection. It's not like any other book, and it's a whole lot funnier than most." Mark Childress
"Young Pendarvis writes gutbusting, high wit so very rare these dumb ass greedy times. I've not seen such low disgust and language brilliance married to character in too, too long. I cheer him and insist you general readers are in for the longest laughs of the early century." Barry Hannah, author of Ray, Airships, and Yonder Stands Your Orphan
About the Author
Jack Pendarvis spent much of his childhood and adult life in Bayou La Batre, Alabama and now lives in Atlanta, Georgia. His writing has been published in The Believer, McSweeney's, and 14 Hills, and his stories have been anthologized in Stories from the Blue Moon Café II, The Alumni Grill, and the Pushcart Prize anthology.
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