Cover image for The happiest people in the world
The happiest people in the world
Clarke, Brock, author.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2014.
Physical Description:
340 pages ; 22 cm
"Take the format of a spy thriller, shape it around real-life incidents involving international terrorism, leaven it with dark, dry humor, toss in a love rectangle, give everybody a gun, and let everything play out in the outer reaches of upstate New York [where a Danish cartoonist is relocated after having been involved in the controversy surrounding a depiction of Muhammad]"
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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library
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"[A] dark and funny satire . . . Infidelities, secret identities and double-crosses . . . Reflects the absurdity of any country obsessed with spying on its own people." -- The Wall Street Journal

Take the format of a spy thriller, shape it around real-life incidents involving international terrorism, leaven it with dark, dry humor, toss in a love rectangle, give everybody a gun, and let everything play out in the outer reaches of upstate New York--there you have an idea of Brock Clarke's new novel. Filled with wonder and anger in almost equal parts, The Happiest People in the World is a ripped-from-the-headlines tale of paranoia and the all-American obsession with security and the conspiracies that threaten it.

"A literary first: a book that feels like the love child of Saul Bellow and Hogan's Heroes, full of authorial cartwheels of comedy and profundity." -- GQ

" The Happiest People in the World begins with a raucous bar scene featuring party streamers, smoke, prone bodies, spilled fluids and a stuffed moose with a surveillance camera in its left eye . . . [Clarke has] success in dreaming up oddball originals that have instant appeal." --Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"[Clarke] creates books that taste like delicious cuts of absurdity marbled with erudition." -- The Washington Post

"A whiz-bang spy satire bundled in an edgy tale of redemption . . . His comedy of errors is impossible to put down." -- Publishers Weekly, starred review

"A darkly hilarious novel . . . The writing is clever, the dialogue snappy and understated, and the effect is as pleasantly unsettling as anything Kurt Vonnegut Jr. ever wrote." -- The Portland Sun

"A zany and fast-paced book that explores the myriad ways people of all nations make themselves and others unhappy." -- Chicago Tribune, Printer's Row

"Ranks among the funniest and most relevant social satires I've read . . . It might just make you the happiest reader in the world." -- The Dallas Morning News

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

The latest from Clarke (Exley) is a whiz-bang spy satire bundled in an edgy tale of redemption. Impulsive cartoonist Jens Baedrup leaves his wife and home in Denmark with the help of love-lorn CIA spy Locs (aka Lorraine). The reason: an impressionable and lonely immigrant takes offense at Jens's drawing of Muhammed with a bomb in his turban, hovering above the "happiest people in the world... frowning inexpertly." And so begins clueless cultural criminal and eternal optimist Jens's transformation into Henry Larsen, a Broomeville, N.Y., high school guidance counselor. Henry woos Ellen, a heartbroken bar owner. Meanwhile, Locs is futilely and obsessively in love with Ellen's husband, Matty, a school principal. These mismatches ultimately set off a violent chain reaction of discovery and revenge. As Henry's world comes undone, the identities of his unlikely protectors are revealed in a hilarious series of bloody blunders. The bizarre moose-eye view opening to this culture-clash horror tale expertly sets the tone for what's to come. Clarke dazzles with a dizzying study in extremes, cruising at warp speed between bleak and optimistic, laugh-out-loud funny and unbearable sadness. His comedy of errors is impossible to put down. Agent: Elizabeth Sheinkman, WME Entertainment. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Clarke (An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England) strikes subversive gold with this rip-roaring satire of espionage thrillers. Jens Baedrup, an eternally optimistic Danish cartoonist, finds himself on the run after publishing a drawing that results in his house being set afire by Muslim teenagers. The CIA agent charged with protecting Baedrup sends him to the tiny town of Broomeville, NY-not because it's a particularly safe place, but because she is still carrying a torch for Matty, the town's married high school principal. Once he arrives in Broomeville, Jens changes his name to Henry Larsen, becomes the high school guidance counselor, and promptly falls in love with Ellen, Matty's wife and the owner of the local bar. Nobody in Broomeville is exactly who they seem to be, and everyone is much more heavily armed and closer to self-destructing than Henry can fathom as he chirps his mindless assurance that everything will turn out fine. Against this offbeat backdrop, Clarke pokes fun at a wide variety of targets, including paranoia, gun ownership, terrorism, incompetent teachers, clandestine surveillance, hypocrisy, adultery, and drug use. The prose is marked with long passages that unfold the character's thoughts in confused and serpentine streams of consciousness that highlight both the madcap absurdity and the deep, underlying sadness of their tragicomic predicaments. VERDICT Adam Black's crisp, matter-of-fact narrative style keeps the tone light and comic, even as the events roll toward a bizarre and devastating conclusion. Recommended for most larger public libraries.-Claire Abraham, Keller P.L., TX (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.