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, to the men and women who meet through “mail order bride agencies, all of Stephan Eirik Clark’s stories are told with a humor that’s never far removed from an underlying sadness. Regardless of his where he situates his attention, Clark writes with a voice that never falters, telling with great emotional honesty the story of men and women who are trapped by circumstances, alienated by history, or irrevocably estranged from the culture at large.
*** Finalist for the Minnesota Book Award in novels and short fiction. ***
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Accolades for Stephan Clark and Vladimir's Mustache:
“Elegant, classic stories that sift through history and paint a luminous portrait of an enduring cast of Russian characters. Clark is marvelously protean here, engaging multiple personalities and points of view, and his cold eye and ready wit shine through brilliantly.”“All Hail Stephan Clark! With terrific gusto, insight, and compassion, Clark's first book of short stories brilliantly illuminates the lives of men and women trapped in Russian history and the muddled post-Soviet present. Vladimir's Mustache is a solid achievement, as well as a beguiling introduction to a new literary talent."“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.”“The best comedy inherits some threads of tragedy, and vice versa. Tightrope-walking, Clark agilely suspends the tension between the two that makes us reel; feeling that we have glimpsed the unmasked face of nature as it actually is. ”– Audrey Schomer, KGB Bar & Lit Journal“Stephan Clark's very fine story collection is a tour de force of historical imagination. Clark clearly knows the territory, and he brings it to life with an inventiveness and artistry that few writers can match. These wry, wonderful, often revelatory stories mark the debut of a truly gifted writer, and I look forward to reading more books by Stephan Clark.”– Ben Fountain, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara“Russia is painted as harsh, unstable, and unpredictable, with tragedy coming swiftly to the naive, the unwary, and the arrogant. Exceptional stories involve an Italian castrato who hoodwinks Peter the Great (“The Castrato of St. Petersburg”), an angry American addicted to “romance tours” of the Ukraine (“Humbert Humbert Does Ukraine”), and an actor whose juiciest role becomes his downfall (“Vladimir’s Mustache”).”— Booklist“Stephan Clark’s fiction is serious and funny at the same time, joke followed by intrigue, intrigue followed by insight, and a reader’s dream fulfilled. Go get this book before the knock comes.”– Rusty Barnes, Co-Founder and Editor, Night Train Magazine“Stephan Clark is a writer of uncommon honesty. In an era when contemporary writing seems to skirt its penance with shallow wit and embellished description, Mr. Clark strips naked the soul, exposing it for all its brutal sentimentality. His is writing that makes the boat man weep. For that, and that alone, should any writer be allowed to cross the river.”– Brett Finlayson, Editor, Salt Hill Literary Journal“Stephan Clark's stories span centuries and social classes, exploring Russian history in heartbreaking, breathtaking detail. Each tale in this marvelous collection combines an Old World gravitas with a contemporary edge, giving us characters that resonate as completely of their time, yet as familiar as our own friends and neighbors. You will find yourself lost, totally immersed in these stories – an experience you don't want to miss.”– Jodee Stanley, Editor, Ninth Letter“Stephan Clark approaches his far-gone subjects with an uncanny contemporary immediacy, an empathy that shrugs off centuries and miles, and a total lack of fear. We should all of us, readers and writers, be that unafraid.”– Alexander Yates, author of Moondogs“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…."The Castrato of St. Petersburg" shows Clark at his finest… an absurdist narrative that would give even the best of Gogol a run for its money… It is a bravura performance for Clark and is perhaps the soul of the collection, where both the comedy and the absurdity are at their height… From beginning to end it is clear that Clark is an intelligent writer, perhaps only outdone at times by the tasks he takes on, but this is a minor concern, and on the whole Vladimir's Mustache is a solidly crafted book, Russia on a smaller scale and offered in a portion perfect for a brisk reminder that history is not as far removed as we sometimes may think it to be.”– Adam Gallari, The Collagist"Clark is an excellent story teller. He gives insight into nations and generations with plot and dialogue rather than opinionated narration. You read a story about some workaday character, and you come away with big questions and frightening implications."– Timothy Fountain, Stand Firm“In each story, Clark offers an intimate glimpse at the lives and feelings of his characters... an enjoyable read that I would recommend.”– Cynthia Parkhill, Lake County Record-Bee
Still not convinced?Listen to an interview Stephan did with Voice of Russia (in English)Or, check out the book's trailer..."
About the Author: Stephan Eirik Clark’s short stories and essays have appeared in more than twenty literary magazines, including Ninth Letter, Witness, The Cincinnati Review, and LA Weekly, 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 living and teaching in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His blog is here.