Each day leading up to the April 13 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2013 Novel & Short Story finalist:
Set against the backdrop of Russian history from the time of Peter the Great to the years of the post-Soviet collapse, the nine stories in Vladimir’s Mustache — familiar to readers of Ninth Letter, Cincinnati Review, Witness and Salt Hill — represent a rare feat of ventriloquism and range. From an Italian castrato who longs to sing for the tsar, to a method actor who learns the danger of losing himself in a role after he is cast as Hitler, all of Stephan Eirik Clark’s stories are told with a humor that’s never far removed from an underlying sadness.
Excerpt from Vladimir’s Mustache:
Tomlinson was in the jewelry store, following his fiancée from the expensive engagement rings to those costing twice as much, when he realized the full extent of his communist sympathies. This seemed an important thing to share with Monica, considering their many plans together and her job with the Chamber of Commerce. But she was already bent at the waist and pointing into the display case.
“There.” She tapped the glass with the white tip of a manicured nail. “That’s the one.”
The saleswoman rose from one knee and offered the ring at the end of a delicately tilted wrist. “One of my favorites,” she said, giving Tomlinson the smile of a dolphin.
Monica slipped the ring on and held her hand out at arm’s length to admire the play of light on the stone. “It’s not gaudy big, is it?”She asked this while glancing back over one shoulder and smiling at her fiancé, but Tomlinson couldn’t answer. He was too dazzled by the vibrancy of her teeth. …
Stephan Eirik Clark’s short stories and essays have appeared in more than twenty literary magazines, including Ninth Letter, Witness, and The Cincinnati Review, and been short-listed for the Fish Publishing Historical Fiction Prize and recognized in Best American Essays 2009 and 2010, among other honors. Born in West Germany and raised between England and the United States, Clark holds a Master’s degree in English Literature with a creative writing emphasis from the University of California, Davis and a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. A former print and radio journalist, he has lived in Russia and Ukraine, the latter on a Fulbright Fellowship. He is presently teaching at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.
“Vladimir’s Mustache is a thrilling discovery: dark, elegant fables that dissect the Russian soul, in a style that feels timeless yet utterly fresh. I read each story with a delicious sense of anticipation and dread. Stephan Clark is a marvelous writer, and a tender chronicler of the doomed.” — Karl Iagnemma
“On the whole, Clark is a laconic stylist, pithy and to the point, and his greatest strength is the dark humor present throughout the book, as though his is a world where one can only cope with the reality of everyday life by building up a sardonic chainmail that tries to out-absurd the absurd.” — Adam Gallari, The Collagist (full review)
“Elegant, classic stories . . . Clark is marvelously protean here, engaging multiple personalities and points of view, and his cold eye and ready wit shine through brilliantly.” — T. C. Boyle
Hear an interview Stephan Eirik Clark gave about his book to “Voice of Russia” (in English). It is fascinating to hear the backstories for the pieces in this collection.
Award winners will be announced at the 25th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at the Hilton Minneapolis. An author meet-and-greet and book signing reception precedes the awards ceremony, and the Epilogue after-party includes complimentary champagne, desserts, and live music by Reina del Cid and the Cidizens. Tickets on sale now. Click here for more information.
Have you read Vladimir’s Mustache? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!