Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Book Review: Mark Haber's Deathbed Conversions

So, I have yet to meet, face to face, the remarkable young writer Mark Haber. I came to know Mark, virtually, through our common publisher, Maureen McDole. Mark is the second author to be published by Summerfolk Press, which is the press releasing my book, It Ain't Truth If It Doesn't Hurt, in spring 2010. A couple of weeks back, Mark sent David and I copies of his first book, Deathbed Conversions. A couple of days after receiving the book, Maureen mentioned that Mark would like me to review the book for this very blog, but he was too shy to ask himself. He shouldn't have been. It was my pleasure to read this book. And Mark, though he is happily married to the gorgeous Ulrika Moats, is hot. A great artist and a hot artist are enough to make me think about inventing new ways to sin. The review below is my testament to Mark's work.

Book Review: Deathbed Conversions by Mark Haber

After reading the first story in Mark Haber's collection of shorts, Deathbed Conversions, about a U.S. gone wacky with declarations of holidays, I thought to myself, I need a holiday from reading this book.

I am very glad I didn't take one.

Though I wasn't a fan of the first story, largely because I am not a fan of absurdist literature, and all I could think of was being tortured by Kafka in high school, I moved on to Haber's equally absurd but absolutely brilliant commentary on the rich in his next story, “How the Common Manage.”

From that moment forward, I was hooked.

From a fictional police report that warns of the dangers of monkey bites to a scathing indictment of the use of religion as a tool of domination written as the journal of a 17th century pirate carrying a purloined load of piano keys in the hull of his ship, Mark Haber stretches every day life to absolutely ridiculous proportions. And in his process of magnifying every day occurrences to their most illogical conclusion, he makes visible to the plain eye the contradictions, ironies, and outright moral blasphemies that lay at the core of so many of our closely held beliefs and truths.

And, I must say, I was dutifully chastened when in “Interview for the Government Post of Executioner,” Haber invokes the spirit of Kafka, and in a very absurd manner, declares his mimicry of Kafka's absurdism as absurd.

Without a doubt, Mark Haber is a needed voice in contemporary American literature. He examines everyday vices and values, blows them up, and then breaks them down. Do yourself a favor, go out and get a copy of Deathbed Conversions and commit sections to memory. You can purchase a copy of Mark's book by clicking here.

Mark Haber was born in Washington D.C. in 1972 and grew up in Clearwater, Florida. He spent 4 years living in Los Angeles and came back to Florida in 2000. He has always loved books and literature, to an almost palpable degree. Though eschewing the discussion of things like “style” Mark’s influences are wide and varied. The 19th century Russian writers are essential; also Knut Hamsun, Borges, Marques, Henry Miller, Saul Bellow, Herman Melville, Vladimir Nabakov, Franz Kafka, Jack London, William Faulkner, Thomas Pynchon, Joseph Heller, Philip Roth, Thomas Wolfe, Jack Kerouac, Louis Celine, Charles Bukowski, Thomas Bernhard, Roberto Bolano, Antonio Lobo Antunes, William Gass, Cormac McCarthy, J.M. Coetzee, Jose Saramago, and the poetry of Dickinson, Blake, Whitman, Ginsberg, Stevens, Yeats, Simic and many more. Like Harold Bloom Mark thinks some of the best poetry of the last century is found in prose. Unlike Harold Bloom, Mark isn’t grouchy.

Mark has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Florida, Saint Petersburg. He has bussed tables and waited on them, taught middle school, worked as a night auditor at a bed & breakfast and is at work on a novel, Act of Oblivion, coming out Spring 2010 from Summerfolk Press.

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