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Lord Vishnu's Love Handles: A Spy Novel (Sort Of) Paperback – June 5, 2006

4.2 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

Amazon.com Exclusive

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.

Will: Exactly.

Vishnu: That is so tired.

Will: It's like my tag line.

Vishnu: It's like... really lame.

Will: So where are you?

Vishnu: I’m 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.

Will: Oh.

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 don’t 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 shouldn’t 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 don’t 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 I’ll 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-You’ll-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 weren’t 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.

Vishnu: Namasté.

Will: Namasté. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Travis Anderson, the protagonist of Clark's intentionally kitschy debut, knows when someone will call on the telephone and he knows that his wife is cheating on him. A dream told him to get into the Web-site building business, and he's now quite comfortable. Following this early-pages setup (in another of the seemingly endless computer-oriented conceits by young male novelists), a bored Travis stumbles on a government Web site that stealthily head hunts psychics. Soon, he begins to help locate missing persons, but a crazed, power-mad co-worker kidnaps his wife and son, setting things in hectic motion. Travis's first-person narration is vivid and witty, and gives the dopey plot, which involves a man who claims to be an incarnation of the god Vishnu, nice nuance. But a tricked-out denouement, with Disney World wired to blow Atlanta Olympics-style, is overblown and finally pushes the book from campy and fun to silly and showy.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (June 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743271483
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743271486
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,309,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Will Clarke doesn't want you to know where he lives or what he's doing next. (Which totally begs the question, why does he maintain an eponymous blog?)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Okay, it's not your basic spy novel, or fantasy novel, or...novel, period. But what a bizarre and hilarious ride it is!
From page one I was hooked and couldn't let go. Lord Vishnu's Love Handles is a story about a man holding on to the last threads of his sanity as he realizes, more and more, that he has visions and learns of things he should not (and could not) know. The narrative is strong and keeps the pace rolling nicely. I actually found myself wanting more when the story was over (@220 pages is like eating tapas--I'm never full).
As a reader who normally does not enjoy "fantasy-like" or impossible elements to stories, I was easily pulled in to the plot line of this story (in the same way you may be pulled in to the impossibility of Chuck Palahniuk's Lullaby). Fans of Chucky P. or Dave Eggers will dig this.
The writing is edgy, quirky and a blast! Too bad I couldn't find it in hardback - this one is a keeper.
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Format: Hardcover
Judging from the title and the cover of this book, I had no idea what I was getting into. It's a 2005 Amazon Breakout Book, however, so I jumped right in, and it was a thrilling ride!

Travis Anderson is a quintessential bored upper-middle-class yuppie, finding escape from his perky wife, all their material possessions, the neighborhood dinner parties, and his boring personal business through alcohol. He also thinks he's psychic, but then again, who believes a drunk man who pulls all the kids out of the pool at a dinner party because he thinks there is an alligator swimming around?

Enter the CIA psychic team, who whisk Travis off to a super-secret boot camp of psychic spooks who work for the government. All of this is done under the cover of him going to rehab for alcoholism. In one hilarious chapter, his wife's "Intervention Party" is planned to the smallest detail, and Travis is briefed on how to behave during the course of the evening so that it is a successful neighborhood social event.

A battle between the forces of good and evil ensues in the psychic spook world, and Travis has to learn how to harness his psychic energy both to read others and to control people. The book is a drama about yuppie life, a sci-fi story, and a comedy wrapped up in one. Fans of Vonnegut and Palahniuk will enjoy this book. If you are looking for similar new fiction, try Slavin's Carnivore Diet.
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Format: Paperback
Will Clarke is the funniest man on this planet. This book is like nothing you have ever read.
Psychically-gifted-but-tragically-shallow Travis Anderson milks his premonitions only to acquire an upper-middle-class lifestyle--pretty wife,big house, and shiny car--without having to make an effort. But recent visions threaten his yuppie contentment.It appears that his wife is cheating on him, and bad guys want to harness his mental powers.
Travis has never spent much time contemplating how he could better mankind, but suddenly he is saddled with the responsibility of saving the world. The way he goes about it, complaining every step of the way, is laugh out loud funny.
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Format: Hardcover
"Lord Vishu's Love Handles," written in the present tense using a wacky first-person narrator whose every other word seems to be of the four-letter variety, springs from an utterly absurd premise, uses cliched phrases when it wants to, and resists any attempt to pigeonhole it into a particular genre. Will Clarke's complete disregard for literary convention goes along way toward explaining why this entertaining work was spurned by traditional publishers until it proved its marketability by developing a cult readership as a self-published novel under the aptly-named "Middlefinger Press."

Our hero is Travis Anderson, an alcoholic suburbanite whose obsession over his wife's possible infidelity and growing uneasiness with his psychic abilities drive him into financial ruin and make him easy prey for recruitment by a shadowy arm of the government that covets his unusual remote viewing skills. What follows is a series of darkly comical adventures in which Travis is forced to reexamine his comfortable, yuppie-fat-inducing lifestyle in the context of the Hindu religion, pit his talents against a rogue remote viewer who fancies himself as the second coming of Rasputin, and save the day in one of the most outrageous climax scenes imaginable.

This book made me laugh harder than anything I've read since Carl Hiaasen's "Skinny Dip," all the while reinforcing some good old fashioned values, like the sanctity of all living things, the evils of jealousy and materialism, and the importance of family. We can only hope that Paramount exercises its option rights and that the film remains true to Clarke's offbeat vision.

-Kevin Joseph, author of "The Champion Maker"
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Format: Hardcover
I picked this book up at a library book sale for a dime. So I wasn't expecting too much from it, but it was worth every penny. Its basically a story about a man who seems to be going mad, but finds out that he has special powers and is recruited by a secret government agency to do their bidding. The entire book is hilarious and the end is quite suspenseful. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in kind of strange, off beat stories, with "different" characters.
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