* Finalist for the 2013 Minnesota Book Award*
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 represent a rare feat of ventriloquism and range. Whether focused on an Italian castrato who longs to sing for the tsar, a method actor who learns the danger of losing himself in a role after he’s cast as Hitler in a Stalin-era propaganda film, or the men and women of today’s mail-order bride trade, Clark’s stories reveal characters trapped by circumstances and alienated by history.
Praise for Vladimir’s Mustache:
“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, author of The Road to Wellville and Budding Prospects
“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.”
– Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk and Brief Encounters with Che Guevara
“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.”
– Ken Kalfus, author of Pu-239 and Other Russian Fantasies and A Disorder Peculiar to this Country
“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, author of On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction and The Expeditions
“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
“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.
– Audrey Schomer, KGB Bar & Lit Journal