HITTING SHELVES #9: Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark

Sweetness #9

Sweetness #9 comes out today!

It’s a satire of epic proportions about an American family, the Leverauxs, whose patriarch gets paid to develop a new artificial sweetener in a laboratory. As the years pass, Sweetness #9 works its way into America’s bloodstream, and everyone from lab rats to Washington politicians suffers from obesity, anxiety, and depression, while David Leveraux tries to keep his involvement a secret.

Edan Lepucki recommended Sweetness #9 to Stephen Colbert and called it “funny, moving, like Don DeLillo crossed with A. M. Homes,” which sounds just about perfect.

We asked the author one question.

How are you celebrating the publication of Sweetness #9? 

Stephan Eirik Clark: In Norway, where my mother is from, a toast at dinner-time is a simple affair. You raise your glass (not too high, though, because there’s no need to call attention to yourself) and utter a single syllable: “Skol!” Just as quickly, your eyes can fall back to your plate and you can lose yourself in your food.

Stephan Eirik Clark

Stephan Eirik Clark

But in Russia, where my wife is from, such brevity would ruin your reputation and very likely cause you to lose friends and shame family members. In Russia, you are expected to hold your glass high and speak at great length, to reveal a poet’s depth of feeling and a lover’s unrivaled affection, to perhaps push back a few tears and say still more when some around the table — the Norwegians, perhaps — are certain that you must be coming to an end. “And let me add,” you might say, “that in addition to wishing you health, happiness, and great success in the coming year, I would hope that you will be blessed with the joy of close friendships and more of the greatest love of all — the love of young children. Therefore let me add” — and on it might go as your father, a Texan, looks around the table, sure there must be a hidden camera somewhere, that this must be a prank soon to be streamed on YouTube, for it can’t possibly go on any longer, can it?

Yes, it can. And as you adopt many of the traditions you marry into, I very likely will be speaking in such a way on the day that Sweetness #9 is released into the world. Either over dinner with my wife and children in St. Paul or before I read that night at Common Good Books just up the road, I will raise a glass and wish my novel health, so that it won’t suffer through its infancy as a hardback, and success, so that it might gain warm reviews from critics and readers alike. I might even add, while wiping at my misty eyes, that I hope it will encounter a good bit of love, because a book, like a person, wants only one thing: to be held close, so close it can feel the quiet thrum of a sympathetic heart.

– Brian Hurley

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