Press and Praise

Reviews and Features

“Sweetness #9 is scrumptious . . . a family story, a corporate thriller and delicious entertainment . . .  It’s high-calorie food for the brain wrapped in a mouth-wateringly delicious morality tale.” — Carol Memmott, Chicago Tribune

“The pitch-perfect first half of the novel demonstrates that Clark is not only an adept stylist — the pompous, slightly stilted tones of his narrator vividly evoke Leveraux’s stuffy, square conservative British expat — but possesses a flair for pacing. The plot gently escalates from a simmer to a raging boil, gripping the reader with an ominous, creeping sense of danger; comparisons to Don Delillo’s White Noise aptly signal Clark’s ability to, like Delillo, cast fearful question onto the most basic and unavoidable structures of our daily modern lives (and hint at the deft homage to Delillo’s masterpiece built into the plot’s final turns).” — Claire Fallon, Huffington Post, “The Book We’re Talking About”

“This funny, provocative novel examines the grievous consequences of living in denial about what we eat” — Carmela Ciuraru, The New York Times

Sweetness #9 is a Trojan Horse of brilliant, social critique hiding in a sugar packet. A dysfunctional family, a fantastic sense of history and presence, dire cultural portents — with so many addictive hooks Sweetness #9 refuses to be ignored.” — Zane Jungman, The Austin American-Statesman

“If the best social satire makes the bitter pill of truth easier to swallow, “Sweetness #9” coats it with something better than sugar. This debut novel [is] . . . very, very funny.” — Clea Simon, The Boston Globe

“Like Don DeLillo’s White Noise, Clark manages to blend the apocalyptic with the absurd, coaxing laughter from tragedy.” — Tampa Bay Times

“Funny, smart, and entertaining.” — The Rumpus

“A snappy satire with plenty of bite.” — Oprah Magazine, Sept. 2014 (also a “Best New Books” selection online)

Sweetness #9 is as American as an apple pie deep-fried in artificial sugar . . . The novel works in so many ways.” — Andrew Blom, Boston Herald

A “lively and funny debut novel.” — Minneapolis Star-Tribune (with Q&A side-bar)

“Sort of a Schrödinger’s cat experiment for the Michael Pollan set. We are what we eat, right? Or is it just, we are? . . .  Sweetness #9 is entertaining in the way it confronts the malaise of modern American life — with tongue firmly in cheek.” — Jason Beerman, The Toronto Star

“Clark’s dark comedy riffs neatly on a national paranoia but, as in any successful satire, grains of truth ground his elements of the ridiculous. Against the dark humor of the flavor industry, with its collection of socially strange scientists and its contradictory ethics, [protagonist] David [Leveraux]’s inability to connect with his family or find meaning in his suburban paradise is a particularly frank critique of American life. Readers will wince and laugh–and perhaps forgo sweetening their coffee today.” — Jaclyn Fulwood, Shelf Awareness

“New Voices: Stephan Eirik Clark and Sweetness #9USA Today

“It’s easy to think Sweetness #9 is an anti-food industry book, but it really isn’t. Artificial sweetener is used as a metaphor, and the real heart of the story is the past decades’ cultural shifts. It’s all here, from aerobics to blue ketchup, from school shootings to suburbia, from over-medication to diet fads. Chemical flavoring stands for our obsession with immediacy, our single-serving, isolationist culture and our inability to stomach anything nourishing, either culinary or emotional … Fans of Tom Perrotta will enjoy Clark’s pointed examination of the human condition.” — Carrie Rollwagen, Bookpage

One of the “12 most notables first novels of the year.” — Bookpage Blog

“Clark’s delightfully twisted, funny tale about a man coming to believe that an artificial sweetener he developed is the source of many modern-day troubles will make fans of Sam Lipsyte quite happy.” — Flavorwire’s “10 Must-Read Books for August”

“Equally disturbing and funny, Clark’s novel about flavor science and the things we consume in the modern world will have you questioning everything you rely on for sustenance (except the book itself).” — Vulture

The New York Magazine Approval Matrix ranks Sweetness #9 both “highbrow” and “brilliant.”

“Sweetness #9 and 6 More Sharp Modern Satires.” — Barnes and Noble Book Blog

“Reading Sweetness #9 may literally save your life.” — James Costa, Three Guys, One Book

“Do we really know what’s in the food we eat and how it impacts us? That’s the question at the heart of Stephan Clark’s scary/funny/tender/thought-provoking novel Sweetness #9, the story of a flavorist who uncovers secrets about an artificial sweetener he’s researching that possibly put his family in danger.”  — Mary Ann Grossmann, St. Paul Pioneer Press

“Sweetness #9 takes on fast food, family and Hitler” — MPR News

“Clark’s writing is witty and tongue-in-cheek.” — Frontier Psychiatrist

Sweetness #9 is the perfect book to end the summer on. At once entertaining and thought-provoking, it’s a great book to transition out of fluffy summer reading and back into the intellectual pursuits of the fall.” — San Francisco Book Review

“Clark sets himself — and largely succeeds at — the task of imagining the people behind some of the ubiquitous and questionable food products we all have been ingesting now for decades.” — SF Gate

“Sweetness #9 is a surprisingly gentle story about the passage of time, and Clark leads us through the years to a poignant ending that satisfyingly pulls at the heart. For a story about artificial sweeteners, and trying to understand where to draw the line between the confusion of the head and the gut, it’s fully rewarding. Bittersweet, even.” — Minnesota Monthly

“Sweetness #9 hits that seriously sweet spot between speculative and literary fiction—the place where writers like Margaret Atwood live. Put this on the must-read list.” — Sacramento News & Review

“Clark turns a dystopian nightmare into a comic romp through the dark side of the American dream.” — Jim Ruland, San Diego City Beat

“its punching bursts of sweetness, that repeatedly bloom over the palate only to disappear too soon, are memorable.” — Zyzzyva

Trade Magazine Reviews and Features

“This debut novel is a hilarious take down of an industry more interested in getting us to buy its products than in selling us good food. Essential for fans of Christopher Buckley’s Thank You for Smoking.” — Library Journal

“Summer Best Debuts: First Novels” Library Journal

“The energetic mixture of laughter and revulsion, routine and invention, outrage and dismay, fact and fiction, skewer a food industry that provides neither food nor sustenance and damages us in ways we are just beginning to fathom.” — Publishers Weekly

“Food Additives – Blame Hitler PW Talks with Stephan Eirik Clark.” — A Q&A with the Author at Publisher’s Weekly

“PW Picks: Books of the Week, August 18, 2014” Publishers Weekly

“Clark’s wit never flags.” — Kirkus Review

“A sidesplitting sendup of the food flavor industry.” — Megan Labrise, Kirkus Review (Interview)

“Part suburban family drama, part corporate thriller, Clark’s first novel offers a hyperreal American fable that is tuned to our cultural anxieties about food, chemicals, and authenticity.” — Booklist

Radio Coverage

Fresh Air, National Public Radio

The Daily Circuit, Minnesota Public Radio

To The Best of Our Knowledge, Wisconsin Public Radio

KFAI Write On! Radio

WCCO Morning News with Dave Lee

“Colbert Bump” Coverage

“Colbert Nation vs. Amazon – Edan Lepucki” — The Colbert Report

“Sign Off – Sweetness #9” — The Colbert Report

“Giving Another Debut Author the Colbert Bump”New York Times, ArtsBeat Blog

“St. Paul Author Stephan Eirik Clark gets Colbert Bump for new novel”Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Another author boosted by ‘Colbert Bump'” — Associated Press

“Book Buzz: Colbert gives another Hatcehette author a lift”USA Today

“St. Paul Novelist Stephan Eirik Clark is the latest Hatchette author to get ‘The Colbert Bump'” — Knight Arts

“In Colbert Nation vs. Amazon, Edan Lepucki passes the baton” — Melville House Blog

“It was an out-of-body experience: Stephan Eirik Clark on his novel getting the ‘Colbert Bump'” — Salon

“Augsburg author finds sweetness in light of Colbert Bump” — MinnPost

“Author, author! Fowler up for Mann Booker Prize; Clark’s book ‘bumped’ by Colbert” — Davis Enterprise

Amazon vs. Hatchette Dispute

“Amazon vs. Hatchette: A Reading list to get you caught up” — Electric Literature

Praise from other Authors

“Funny and moving. After this, nothing will ever taste the same again.”—T.C. Boyle, author of World’s End, The Road to Wellville and TC Boyle Stories.

Sweetness #9 does for flavor science and its sweetly dangerous concoctions what White Noise did for chemical transportation and airborne toxic events—that is, makes them real enough to produce legitimate anxiety and funny enough to make you fall off the couch.”—Keith Lee Morris, author of The Dart League King

“Sweetness #9 is funny but still human, entertaining but also illuminating, smart but not smug, thought-provoking without lecturing: it’s a rare book that does all this at once, and does it so well.” — Caitlin Horrocks, author of This is Not Your City.

Sweetness #9 is that rare thing: an intelligent page-turner. Read this book for its whip-smart prose, its thoughtful characters, and its sharp observations about the synthetic (and authentic) aspects of modern life.”—Karl Iagnemma, author of On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction

Sweetness #9 is great. Funny, moving. Like DeLillo crossed with AM Homes. Read it.” —Edan Lepucki, author of California

“Haunting and hilarious, Sweetness #9 is so compelling that it made me throw the maraschino cherries in the trash and run out to buy organic greens. That’s how sucked in I was by Stephan Eirik Clark’s sly, bold version of our modern world, where nature and falseness vie for supremacy, and nothing can taste sweet enough, vivid enough, for children intoxicated by the tang of chemicals. This book offers us something amazing, with the startling ring of truth: the fact that not knowing where our food comes from is inexorably linked to not knowing who we are.”—Stacey Richter, author of Twin Study

“A truly gifted writer, Stephan Eirik Clark writes with an inventiveness and artistry that few can match.”—Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

“All Hail Stephan Eirik Clark! He writes with terrific gusto, insight, and compassion.”—Ken Kalfus, author of Equilateral

“A comic novel that brims with insight and imagination. Stephan Eirik Clark casts a sharp eye on our addiction to simple solutions and quick fixes.”—Laila Lalami, author of Secret Son

“So smart, so funny, and totally entertaining. Nothing on the dinner table escapes Stephan Clark’s incisive wit—and that’s only the beginning.”—Bonnie Nadzam, author of Lamb

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