- Paperback: 372 pages
- Publisher: Brooklyn Arts Press (September 7, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1936767473
- ISBN-13: 978-1936767472
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 46 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #390,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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"A picaresque novel about mountain people, Harvard lawyers, the heft of rocks, and the power of words. The Ugly brims with intelligence and humor." --Laila Lalami, author of The Moor's Account, Pulitzer Prize finalist
"In his restrained and stark prose, Boldizar mixes a kind of fabulism with the absurd. The Ugly combines history and hilarity, and offers a sardonic view of the law and legal system. This is a strange and bold novel, original in its scope, story, and point of view. A wild fictional ride that will leave you wanting more." --Nina Swamidoss McConigley, author of Cowboys and East Indians, winner of the PEN Open Book Award
"Boldizar has opened a door into the parallel universe of myth. Out of it has stepped a modern day Beowulf." --Alan Stone, author of Movies and the Moral Adventure of Life former president of the American Psychiatric Association
From the Inside Flap
- Best Book of 2016 Overall Grand Prize winner, CAC17
- Somerset Prize for best literary fiction of 2016
- Indies 2016 "Book of the Year" double finalist (literary, humor) winners TBA, American Library Association conference
- Best Books of 2016: Best Fiction, Entropy Magazine
- Best Fiction Books of 2016: A Year End List, Book Scrolling
"Laugh-out-loud funny...I definitely recommend The Ugly for fans of insightful law school satire." --Above the Law
"A full on satire of contemporary law as mesmerizing and complex as something lost from David Foster Wallace, yet as light in tone as A Confederacy of Dunces." --Goodreads
"Boldizar's debut successfully recognizes the chasm between youthful idealism and the reality it's often mired in." --Booklist
"An epic tale." --Vancouver Real TV
"One of the strangest, craziest, funniest, most interesting and most different novels anyone has ever put out." --Slovak Spectrum TV
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Top customer reviews
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In the great tradition of existentialism, Boldizar brings us a book that is hard to classify. It has aspects of the existential with a fair amount of satirical word play and a bit of theater of the absurd thrown in.
An interconnected story of a Siberian Slovak tribal leader looking for a way to save his land and his people. He does this via Harvard Law School and the Tuareg uprising in Africa. Oh, and there’s dark magic and Winnie the Pooh thrown in as well.
Muzhduk the Ugli the Fourth is a mountain of a man who comes from a tribe of Siberian Slovaks where honor is found in throwing boulders-yes, actual boulders-and either causing great damage to one’s opponent or catching said boulders without physically breaking.
When his tribe has their land taken through clever use of legal wrangling by an American lawyer, Muzhduk heads (on foot) to Boston to attend Harvard Law School. On the way, he floats on an iceberg to the Bering Sea, plays rugby for a college in Canada, and gets a perfect LSAT, which ushers him into Harvard where he hopes to learn the words that will help him win back his land for his tribe.
It is during this part of the story that the word play and Muzhduk’s obvious lack of cultural “sophistication” is most enjoyable. In this first year in law school, Muzhduk observes how words are used to challenge and crush the students, much like the boulder throwing at home. This extended metaphor of words as boulders that can be thrown and cause damage, especially in the world of law where words can be twisted and used within the multiple connotations, is where the book finds its best rhythm and is most enjoyable. It is also where Muzhduk meets an odd assortment of professors and students, and what will certainly delight any Harvard graduate, even the small blue bear, Pooh, can be found within the pages of this book.
Interspersed throughout the third person, past tense narrative of Muzhduk’s first year as an One-L at Harvard, is the first person account of his travels in Africa, looking for Peggy, his American girlfriend who has been kidnapped (or perhaps not) by the Tuareg in their war with the government.
This part of the novel unfolds like layers of an onion. As the One-L year continues chronologically, Muzhduk’s journey in Africa, and his reason for being there unfolds with new layers of complexity. Even now, Muzhduk discovers that the dangerous game of words as crushing boulders still is in play, but there are added dangers as well.
There were times in this novel that it felt reminiscent of Heller or Beckett, as Muzhduk is challenged to understand the strange culture of Harvard Law and also navigate his way through a tribal uprising to accomplish his goals. In both places, Harvard and Africa, the story abounds in word play and existential ponderings. Just like reading Beckett or Heller or Buber (there’s a reference to his I-Thou theory in the book), or any other existential writer, "The Ugly" isn’t for everyone and it’s not an easy read. This eccentrically irreverent work, absurd in the very best sense of the word, will amuse and enlighten.
Alexander Boldizar is the first post-independence Slovak citizen to graduate with a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. Born in Czechoslovakia (now the Slovak Republic) in 1971, he resides in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada where he writes, works his mad skills in the economic community of Wall Street, and brings meaningful commentary as an art critic. His writing has won the PEN / Nob Hill prize, represented Bread Loaf as a nominee for Best New American Voices, and been shortlisted for a variety of other awards. He has published over one hundred articles in a variety of venues. He states that his freelance writing pays for his son’s circus school.
It doesn’t get any less funny, but the demands on the reader get heavier along with Muzhduk the Ugli the Fourth’s own quest. And while the fish-out-of-water story, satire and general cultural fun-poking will probably keep the book entertaining for the general reader, Boldizar gradually ramps up throwaway lines that are hilarious, but only if you’re familiar with the references. There’s a scene at a toilet named “Rawls’ Stalls and Urinals” that feels like something from Ionesco unless you’re familiar with John Rawls’ book, “A Theory of Justice”—in which case it still feels like something from Ionesco, but with an intellectual stabbing on top--and a plaque on the bathroom wall saying “Veni, Widi, Wiwi” that’s only funny if you know Julius Caesar’s famous line, “Veni, Vidi, Vici,” while maintaining the ability to remain silly.
One more example: Muzhduk and his postmodern-professor sort-of girlfriend meet at a café named after Derrida, noting that they’d spent months discussing the idea of having dinner there without ever actually going. The rest of the scene works on its own, but that half-sentence is very funny if you’re familiar with Derrida. If you're not, you won’t even notice.
Most of the humor is more approachable than this, but the density of these references does gradually grow, maxing out at about 2/3rds of the way in. As it does, the novel also starts to violate some of the standard rules of fiction, relying on humor and a very likeable main character to pull the reader out the other end. When you finish, you feel like you just got off an intellectual roller coaster.
For a book that starts with two mountain men throwing boulders at each other, The Ugly is deceptively challenging, but in a good way. It may not be for everyone, but it's a very sophisticated satire.