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Contributor Spotlight on Brock Clarke

by Dan Froid

“Take a hapless Danish cartoonist with a fatwa on his head. Put an American secret agent with secrets of her own in charge of his well-being. Give her the half-baked idea of hiding said cartoonist in an upstate New York town, disguising him as a high-school guidance counselor. Turn up the emotional boil on love triangles and spy intrigue, then arm everybody with a gun.” That’s how GQ’s recent interview with Brock Clarke describes his newest novel, The Happiest People in the World (Algonquin Books, 2014). When I read the description, I thought two things: 1) “This sounds weird,” and 2) “I should read this.” Invoking those sentiments seems, fortunately, to be Brock Clarke’s game. This interview on Bookslut is also funny and charming—he discusses his sloppy research skills and the little-known field of packaging science—and, yes, it makes you want to read his books.

Brock Clarke is the author of several novels and collections of fiction, and he teaches creative writing at Bowdoin College. The Happiest People in the World is his sixth book; among his earlier works are An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, a national bestseller, and Carrying the Torch, his 2004 Prairie Schooner Book Prize-winning collection of short stories.

It's always fascinating to get a glimpse of the writers or books that writers themselves most admire. Clarke writes about his fondness for the writer and “loser” Frederick Exley (one of his novels, Exley, features, as Clarke says, “someone who was even more obsessed than I was”) on his website.

Read yet another fantastic interview—and take a look at his bookshelves—with the Boston Globe, here. You can also watch his reading from the Colgate Writers’ Conference here. And for more from Clarke, check out his website.

Prairie Schooner’s annual book prize contest remains open to submissions through March 15. Find out more information about the prize, as well as about more of our past winners, on our website.