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Harry, Revised: A Novel Hardcover – April 15, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (April 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596914629
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596914629
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,822,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This debut novel from popular literary blogger Sarvas focuses on the midlife crisis of recently widowed Harry Rent. Harry maintained a complicated and uneasy relationship with his wife, Anna, who died during a cosmetic surgery procedure. On the day of her funeral, Harry meets Molly, a raven-haired diner waitress and grad student, and is smitten. To win Molly's heart, Harry devises a bizarre plan to transform himself from the sleazy, lying john that he'd become into an honorable and noble gentleman straight from the pages of a Dumas novel, through a series of far from selfless acts aimed toward Molly's old, crotchety co-worker, Lucille. Harry stalks Lucille to ascertain her financial needs and tries to rectify her pitiful situation—all just to get a night of passion with Molly, who already has one deadbeat in her life. Harry is also being followed by the private investigator hired by his sister-in-law, Claire, who holds Harry responsible for sending the beautiful Anna to her early death, but he is too wrapped up in his own game to notice. The novel hinges on Harry's transformation, and though there may be legions of writers spurned by his blog just willing for Sarvas to fail, this is a self-assured, comic and satisfying story. (May)
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“Despite [his] shortcomings, Harry's ability to lose himself in his own outrageous thoughts and his slow turn toward confidence come across with heart. Yes, Harry's a major league dolt, but, to Sarvas' credit, we end up pulling for him.”  —Los Angeles Times
“[Sarvas] makes a winning debut with this smart and funny novel…[he] weaves a moving story of redemption, a wryly funny take on self-improvement, and a reassuringly optimistic view of human nature.”   —Booklist
“[A] noteworthy debut... [Sarvas] promise[s] much for the future.” —Denver Post

“SoCal literati know Sarvas through his popular litblog, The Elegant Variation. Now, they'll know him for his impressive debut, a funny, poignant novel about middle-aged widower Harry Rent, whose wife's untimely death sends the flawed protagonist on a journey of personal transformation.”   —Westways magazine

“Self loathing was never so funny, and Sarvas’s depiction of his downward-spiraling anti-hero is spot-on.”  —Los Angeles Magazine

“Sarvas' compact, elegantly paced and pleasingly understated novel recalls a more literate and patient era, when first-time novelists were not expected to swing for the fences.”     —Chicago Tribune

“If there was ever a person who could use some revision, it's Harry. A black-and-white sketch of this antihero looks pretty unsympathetic - he's a paunchy, self-absorbed neurotic who cheats on his wife weekly with prostitutes. A creep, you could say. Luckily, as he gets filled in with the colors of author Sarvas' full palette, Harry begins to look much more human. Sarvas, a first-time novelist, who keeps the literary blog the Elegant Variation, has built an entertaining book around this character sketch. He also has a neat knack for revealing information slowly, allowing the story to unfold like a mystery of sorts - which, actually, is more or less what it is. It's a marriage mystery, a whodunit of what-went-wrong.”  —Philadelphia Inquirer

“An excellent, starred review for Harry in Library Journal: "Brilliantly funny and heart-wrenching...Harry Rent is of the same ilk as Walter Mitty and Rabbit Angstrom: deeply flawed, likable, and hilariously, touchingly memorable. Highly recommended.”  —Library Journal

“Fast-paced; nice comic touches; and Harry is, finally, rather compelling, selfish and damaged but recognizably human.”   —Kirkus Reviews

“A self-assured, comic and satisfying story.”  —Publishers Weekly

“Mark Sarvas’s first novel is funny and sad, rueful, wised-up and curiously moving. A remarkable debut.”—Booker Prize winner John Banville, bestselling author of The Sea

“Mark Sarvas has created an enormously compelling character in Harry Rent, a man less at odds with himself than with certain personas the modern world forces us to inhabit. His ethical and emotional dilemmas drive the story and make Harry, Revised a scathingly funny but also wise and tender debut.”  —Sam Lipsyte, author of Home Land

“Mark Sarvas’s debut novel is fun, fast and heartfelt, an exemplar of the Coming-of-Middle-Age novel in which an overgrown boy finally learns to grow up and deal with the world with greater compassion and maturity—even if that’s no guarantee he won’t stop running into things.”  —National Book Award Finalist Joshua Ferris, author of Then We Came to the End

“Harry, Revised is immensely readable, very funny, and rich with earned emotion—the sort of novel (rare in this age) that you read in one or two sittings, and that moves you as much as it makes you laugh.”  —David Leavitt, author of The Indian Clerk

“As witty, erudite and outrageous as Waugh, with a flawed hero worthy of Roth. A marvelous, enviable debut.”  —Andrew Sean Greer, author of The Confessions of Max Tivoli

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan D. Polk on July 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The only reason I read Mark Sarvas's debut novel, Harry, Revised, was because I enjoy his literary blog, The Elegant Variation. I found it to be a fairly good novel, but it seemed easy to discern that it was his first. Though I doubt my ability to judge fairly because of the circumstances under which I became aware of it, I nevertheless found it to be enjoyable.

Harry Rent is a recent widower who is smitten by a young waitress. He attempts to win her by manipulating her life as well as others, all the while trying to deal (or rather not to deal) with the death of his wife. The plot suffers from being a bit too earnest, and though I am glad Sarvas didn't cheat the ending, I never really doubted where Harry would end up in the end.

Someone dies, and the survivor goes through the stages of grief throughout the story. He denies his feelings, he is angry with himself, feels guilty about his anger, etc. It's a worn trope. So what does Sarvas bring to the table to compensate?

The book is pretty funny, both with regards to narration and the absurd situations in which Harry finds himself. The characterization makes all the prominent characters well drawn, save Harry's in-laws who seem to be stereotypes. And at times I was personally affected by the Harry's dilemma. Though I haven't had the analogous situation in my own life, much of the emotion rendered carried a sense of verisimilitude that made empathizing come rater easily, at least for me.

Though humorous, the narrative is a little clunky, especially at first. As to whether I adapted as I went on or it got better, I am unsure. And word choice was at times quite perplexing. Why use a five-syllable word that will send readers to a dictionary when a more common word would do?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gentle Reader on July 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
I've always been a fan of Mark Sarvas-- I have his blog bookmarked-- so I knew he could write. But I wasn't prepared for the fantastic energy, detail and characterizations in his debut novel. It's psychological astute, surprising and ultimately very moving. I anxiously await his next novel.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan E. Evison on June 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Mark Sarvas the critic had every reason to be frightened of the reception that might greet Harry, Revised. Seriously. The dude's got balls. I can't help but think of Peter Bogdanovich, who, like Sarvas was known to level his share of withering criticism before ever stepping into the ring. But like Bogdanovich, Sarvas has stepped up and delivered with his debut. What's more, in Harry, Revised, Sarvas has deftly dealt with subject matter that in lesser hands, might well have walked a banal line-- American male mid-life crisis and all its attending pitfalls. Where Sarvas shines is in the details. And the humor. And the depth. In short, in all the right places. Harry Rent, in all his flawed, disquieting, awkward sub-glory, is achingly alive, and very memorable. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever had the wheels fall of their cart.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ed on January 19, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
At first, I just wanted to slap the narrator. But the dry humor that pervades every page of this book slowly infuses itself into the plot, and before I knew it, I couldn't wait to see what he would do next.
A surprisingly funny, and sad, book about marriage, and sense of self.
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