Tag Archives: Stephen Colbert

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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It was something of a surprise when Thomas Piketty’s 700-page, statistics-laden economics tome Capital in the Twenty-First Century became a sensation earlier this year, selling out its early print run and even briefly passing Heaven is for Real for the top spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. Less surprising was the news last week that the 700-page, statistic-laden economics tome now tops a list of books people are buying and then not reading.

According to an admittedly non-scientific study tracking the most frequently highlighted passages in popular e-books, most buyers of Piketty’s book didn’t highlight, and thus probably didn’t read, much of anything beyond page 26. It is “summer’s most unread book” for 2014.

So let me confess at the outset of this review that I am one of the many who have not finished reading this book.

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The Colbert in the Rye

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Last night, two of my favorite things came together when the cOlbert Book Club covered “Everything but The Catcher in the Rye.”

Colbert has spoken often about Salinger on his show. In 2008 he challenged the author to come on The Report, and covered Salinger’s passing in 2010. These segments hold to Colbert’s usual irreverence, but the show’s attention to Salinger comes from a genuine place. When he’s not in character, Colbert is a dedicated fan of  the author. In 2011, he contributed a small letter to Know the Past, Find the Future: The New York Public Library at 100. In the book, he is pictured holding a stack of Salinger’s letters that are stored at the NYPL. Colbert wrote:

I suspect this photo would have annoyed J.D. Salinger. Here I am, the stereotypical liberal arts fanboy, going weak over something he typed.

But I can’t help myself. When I first read Salinger, I thought he wrote the Glass family stories just for me.

You can see the image and read the full entry in the book, which also features contributions from Jonathan Franzen, David Remnick, Zadie Smith and others.

Colbert reading Salinger's letters.

Stephen Colbert reading Salinger’s letters at the New York Public Library.

Last night’s Report was completely dedicated to Salinger. Over the fireplace was an adapted Catcher cover reading “The Colbert in the Rye,” and the segments included the first installment of the one-part series “Better Know a Salinger;” interviews with Tobias Wolff and Shane Salerno; and an appearance of JarJar Caulfield (just watch it).

There was no mention of The Real Holden Caulfield, but I speak for all of us at Fiction Advocate in saying that we would happily provide Mr. Colbert with a free copy. Or if he wants to purchase one (or a few), our proceeds are still being donated to the Wounded Warrior Project — another issue I know Colbert cares deeply about.

Watch the full cOlbert Book Club “Everything but The Catcher in the Rye” episode.

– Michael Moats

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