Book Description: Lord Vishnu's Love Handles is the story of a man who is teetering on the edge of financial ruin and insanity until a couple of secret agents teach him what it really means to lose his mind.
Travis Anderson has a psychic gift. Or so he thinks. So far he's milked his premonitions only to acquire an upper-middle-class lifestyle--pretty wife, big house, and a shiny Range Rover--without having to make any real effort. But recent visions threaten his yuppie contentment. Haunted by omens of impending cancers, stillborn babies, and personal train wrecks, he is compelled to make a series of inaccurate and horrifying prophecies that humiliate him in front of his fellow country club members. The IRS gets Travis's number, too, demanding an audit of his sloppy bookkeeping.
Drowning in mounting financial problems and apparent mental illness, Travis tries booze, pills, even golf to stay afloat, but nothing works. His wife and friends are forced to stage an intervention. Travis is in danger of losing his family, his career, and ultimately, his sanity. That is, until he meets a Hindu holy man in rehab who claims to be the final incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Suddenly, the tragically shallow Travis is saddled with the responsibility of bettering mankind and saving the world.
In this exclusive interview for Amazon.com, Will Clarke, author of Lord Vishnu's Love Handles, talks with the titular Vishnu.
Vishnu: So, Will, it's good to talk to you again. Where are you calling me from?
Will: My cell phone.
Vishnu: I know that. But what city?
Will: I don't want to tell you.
Vishnu: Oh, that's right, you don't want anyone to know where you are or what you're doing next.
Vishnu: That is so tired.
Will: It's like my tag line.
Vishnu: It's like... really lame.
Will: So where are you?
Vishnu: Im everywhere. Omnipresent, omnipotent--remember?
Will: So then you know where I am and what I am doing next.
Vishnu: Pretty much.
Will: Then why'd you ask?
Vishnu: Good way to start an interview.
Vishnu: Let's just get started. First thing I want to ask is why the title Lord Vishnu's Love Handles? Weren't you afraid that might, you know, anger me? Why tug at Superman's cape?
Will: I figured you would think it was funny.
Vishnu: Telling someone they have love handles isn't the best way to make friends, even if you are joking, Will.
Will: What? You're the guy who incarnated as baby Krishna and stole all the butter from the milkmaids and fed it to the monkeys? You're usually totally jokey.
Vishnu: Just kidding... Yeah, I pretty much invented laughter. And you're right, the title did make me laugh.
Will: Whew. I thought you were serious for a second.
Vishnu: You are so easy sometimes.
Will: So you read the book?
Vishnu: Twice, actually.
Will: Wow. Thanks.
Vishnu: I found the book to be full of symbols and hidden messages.
Will: Yeah, it is.
Vishnu: What exactly do the love handles symbolize to you?
Will: Love handles are symbolic of those everyday imperfections. Those things we are constantly trying to fix but can't seem to get on top of.
Vishnu: So what does my having love handles say about the universe?
Will: That's a question I dont know the answer to. But I will tell you, that most statues I've seen of you, you have love handles.
Vishnu: Most people comment on the fact that I have four arms.
Will: Well, look closely at statues or paintings of you, you'll usually find love handles. You're not portrayed as being all chiseled and buff like the statues of Greek gods. Vishnu is always soft and from your soft middle, from your navel grows Brahma, the Cosmos.
Vishnu: Personally, I don't have a lot of spare time to work on my six-pack.
Will: How great is that? The Preserver of the Universe has love handles! Also people's own love handles are the places that will make them laugh if someone else pokes them there--sort like the Pillsbury Doughboy. So I wanted to poke people in their love handles with this book. I wanted to make people laugh, or at least flinch.
Vishnu: In addition to my flabby midsection, you also seem to be obsessed with this concept of laughter. What's that all about?
Will: If you really think about it, why do we, these primates with really big brains, laugh? What's the evolutionary purpose? And why do people get so insulted when you tell them they have no sense of humor? Laughter is a big part of the human experience and to me a very necessary one. I think perhaps, it's what can save us from ourselves or at least from our worst ideas about ourselves. When I think about really big tyrants throughout history, the one thing they were seriously lacking was a sense of humor.
Vishnu: You know Hitler hated laughter. He thought people were laughing at him. He was utterly humorless.
Will: And I think that is symptomatic of a person who is self-righteous and unable to question himself and his actions. And this leads to heinous crimes.
Vishnu: Beware of anyone who can't laugh at themselves.
Will: Exactly. I think laughter is a gift, not unlike the Greek myth about Hope when it flew out of Pandora's box after all the Pestilence was set loose.
Vishnu: Yeah, I wonder who invented laughter? Hmmmm....
Will: Yeah, I wonder who.... Seriously, though, laughter is transformative in so many ways. The act of laughter can take anger, sorrow, or pain, and it turns all that into joy and bliss. The mystery isn't really why, but how laughter does this. I try to explore that with the book. I take tragic situations, but then I try to transfigure these situations into comedy.
Vishnu: And here I was thinking it was just a spy novel.
Will: Well, it is a spy novel. Just like the Bhagavad Gita is a war story--sort of.
Vishnu: You're not saying your book is as good as The Gita?
Will: No, I am not saying that at all. I am saying that stories aren't always what they seem to be about. We shouldnt take things too literally. We should find the truth of any text by delving into metaphor. Read things twice. Chew on it and look for the hidden ideas, "the spaces in between" as Dave Matthews would sing.
Vishnu: Yeah, I am not a big fan of people taking things too literally, especially holy books. Always gets people into trouble. Causes wars and such. Not fun.
Will: War is a whole other topic that I could go off about.
Vishnu: Well, let's try to stay on track. Tell me about the couple of characters in your book that you call SageRat. What a weird idea. Where did that come from?
Will: Sage and Rat represent the incestuous ideas of victimhood and revenge. Sage is the eternal victim while her brother, Rat, embodies the feral, out-of-control nature of revenge. One can't live without the other and over time perhaps, they actually distort to become one in the same--like SageRat in the book.
Vishnu: Yeah, I'm not sure most people are going to get that.
Will: They dont have to. The book works on all sorts of different levels. If people just read it as a thriller that would be fine with me. At least I gave them enjoyment.
Vishnu: That's true. Don't underestimate the little things you can do for people. Just making someone smile is a great gift to them and the universe.
Will: Well said.
Vishnu: Before we go, tell me a little about how the book got to be published by Simon & Schuster.
Will: It's a long story but Ill give you the Reader's Digest version: Wrote the book, got rejected by everyone, self-published it, and sold most of the copies on Amazon. In fact, their "If-You-Like-This-Book-Then-Youll-Like-This-Book" engine spread my book all over the world. I got e-mails from readers in Kosovo, Tehran, Tel Aviv, and Bombay. The book was even taught in a freshman literature class at George Washington University. Then out of the blue, a New Zealand screenwriter, Grant Morris, called to option it. He then got Michael London (Sideways) attached as the producer who got David Gordon Green (George Washington) to attach as the director. And then to my utter surprise, the three of them set the project up at Paramount Pictures. After that, I sold it to Simon & Schuster and closed down my self-publishing operation.
Vishnu: Damn. That's quite a story.
Will: Often wonder if you werent somehow involved.
Vishnu: Uh, hello.
Will: Well, thanks. It's been one hell of a ride.
Vishnu: De nada, Will. It was great talking to you.
Will: You, too. You always crack me up.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.