A DENVER POST BEST BOOK OF 2008
A SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLERS ASSOCIATION FINALIST FOR FICTION PRIZE
Harry, Revised is the story of Harry Rent, a guilt-ridden, down-on-his-luck widower, who tries to reinvent himself following his wife's untimely death. His emotional journey takes him from his own solipsistic and outrageously misdirected fantasies about an obsidian-haired, twenty-two-year-old waitress at his local greasy spoon, to the tenuous beginnings of an actual, personal transformation.
At once deeply moving and darkly comedic, Harry, Revisedis an extraordinary novel about the measure of a man's worth by a wonderful, emerging talent.
“Mark Sarvas's first novel is funny and sad, rueful, wised-up and curiously moving. A remarkable debut.”
— John Banville, winner of the Man Booker Prize for The Sea.
“As witty, erudite and outrageous as Waugh, with a flawed hero worthy of Roth. A marvelous, enviable debut.”
—Andrew Sean Greer, The Confessions of Max Tivoli.
“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 compassions and maturity - even if that's no guarantee he won't stop running into things.”
— Joshua Ferris, National Book Award finalist for 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 one reads in one or two sittings, and that moves as much as it makes one laugh.”
— David Leavitt, The Indian Clerk.
“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, Home Land
"In language at turns erudite and lowbrow, Mark Sarvas creates in Harry, Revised a character and a world almost too easy to enjoy, seeing how gloriously enjoyable he makes the writing of the book appear ... He sets out for a humorous take on an everyman's existential crisis, one tempered with regret and despair (and sprinkled with literary quips and in-jokes), that makes the reader chuckle and nod in sympathetic camaraderie. All of these things he masters with apparent ease ... Sarvas achieves something rare in Harry, Revised. A deceptively easy, immediately engaging read, the novel secretes small truths among its wisecracks and pastiche. As a comic novel, Harry, Revised ranks among the best of its kind. At the same time, its language elevates it to literary success."
— The Australian
"Sarvas has a sure hand for vivisecting 21st-century absurdities; his pièce de résistance has Harry tagging along to Anna’s masochistic spin class, complete with European techno, “Excessive Head Motion Lady,” and an instructor with a “mystical presence” and skintight shorts. BUY IT."
— New York Magazine
"... a deeply felt and often hilarious book of mock heroics."
— Time Out, New York
"... poignant ... blisteringly funny ... "
— The Guardian
“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. ... throughout the novel, Sarvas gives us beautiful bits of wisdom about marriage, which is really what this story is about. This is a book for grown-ups, for people who know how complex adult relationships are”
— Philadelphia Inquirer
"Sarvas is a wonderfully original writer ... "
— The Times (UK)
"Impressively witty first novel from founder of the popular literary blog "The Elegant Variation." This moving tale of Harry's attempts to transform himself after the death of his wife is as darkly funny as it is wise."
— Idaho Statesman
“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
“Beautiful and heartfelt ... the narrative is constantly inventive, messing with chronology, giving Harry depth even when he's acting like a Class A schmuck."
— Word Magazine (UK)
" ... the uninformed reader of this work might be forgiven for assuming he had stumbled upon some minor classic of the 1970s, whose author had won comparisons to John Updike and Philip Roth. ... Sarvas' compact, elegantly paced and pleasingly understated novel recalls a more literate and patient era ... At its best, Sarvas' prose seems effortless... "
— Chicago Tribune
“Mark Sarvas's debut novel, Harry Revised, reminds one that, quite possibly, we have too many funny male writers below the middle age in America today. Not just funny but intelligent, generally skillful writers with a fine understanding of American life particularly within
an affluent, educated, urban class of citizens. ... deft one-liners, jokes and elegantly-turned insights ... goodwill, good lines and well-turned jokes ... "
— Boston Globe
"Sarvas is funny and Harry, with his endless navel-gazing and unsympathetic self-indulgence, is an amusingly hapless and predictably cringe-inducing character ... "
— The Observer (UK)
"Sarvas, a critic who runs the literary blog the Elegant Variation, knows how to structure a story: He deftly withholds key information about Anna and Harry’s marriage, seamlessly alternates between past and present, and superbly maintains pacing. He also captures the way in which some of life’s most dramatic moments are shot through with banality, as when Harry is preparing to make a profound confession to Anna and sees “that mechanical pencil, still under the couch, where it rolled last summer. The chipped paint on Anna’s toenails. That her right big toe is slightly larger than her left.” Harry is a genuinely likable character in spite of his shortcomings, and the reader roots for him in his quest for enlightenment and transformation."
"Self-loathing was never so funny, and Sarvas's depiction of his downward spiraling anti-hero is spot-on. "
— Los Angeles Magazine
"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
’Mark Sarvas’ book about Harry is a wonderful comedy … On the surface it is a light story, but it has more to offer. Here several facets of The American Dream meet. Harry is a romantic comedy with dark undertones and an ending that is not quite Hollywood. This is brilliant entertainment with something more.’
— Morten Abrahamsen, VG (Norway)
"The recently widowed Harry is a bumbling but lion-hearted man who is trying to steer his less-than-interesting life out of numbing age. This novel ... was snapped up in a bidding frenzy at the end of 2007, assuring a huge interest in the author, Mark Sarvas, who was already known as a lit' blogger. Sarvas clearly loves his characters. Harry's hideous ex-in-laws are cruel and over-moneyed. But while his courage fails him in the face of these WASPish horrors, his gentle, if misplaced, love for his local waitress, Molly, and his unsubtle attempts to help Molly's impoverished friend, Lucille, show us a character of such tender depth. A marvellous, often comic and moving tale."
— Harpers Bazaar (Australia)
"Harry, Revised is an entertaining read from the word go. It's a bittersweet debut from Mark Sarvas, and one that I recommend for that bit of escapism we sometimes crave."
— Comsopolitan (Australia)
"Sarvas provides humorous accounts of even the most mundane aspects of his character’s life ... For the most part, the humour stems not from witty one-liners but through the predicaments in which Sarvas continually places Harry ... [Sarvas] delivers a first novel that – continually amusing us with the simple and fault-ridden Harry – never feels like one."
— New Zealand Listener
"Harry Rent makes great (and often hilarious) mistakes in his personal life, and he isn't always likeable. Yet we want to cheer him on as he attempts to reinvent himself. ... Sarvas has, without a doubt, succeeded in creating a perfectly imperfect but intriguing protagonist in Harry Rent. "Harry, Revised" will make you cringe, laugh and cry, sometimes all within a few pages. But Sarvas reminds us that while we might make a mess of our lives through selfishness, we also possess that very human capacity to repair the world in little ways, through simple but potent acts of kindness."
— El Paso Times
" ... endlessly inventive ... a cram of darkly hilarious scenes: the restaurant couple with a funeral urn; Harry's tie getting covered with jam and then caught in the coffin at his wife's funeral ... the story is at its best when deepened by moments of blank terror and desolation. ... By the end, there is precarious hope for a man whose purpose seems to be to provide that which needs to be cleaned up."
— New Zealand Herald
"... 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."
— Publishers Weekly
"The book is fast-paced; there are nice comic touches; and Harry is, finally, rather compelling, selfish and damaged but recognizably human."
— Kirkus Reviews
"Sarvas, writer of the highly praised literary blog, The Elegant Variation, has written a brilliantly funny and heart-wrenching first novel about one man's struggle to face the truth. ... Harry Rent is of the same ilk as Walter Mitty and Rabbit Angstrom: deeply flawed, likable, and hilariously, touchingly memorable. Highly recommended ... "
— Library Journal (Starred review)
"The founder of the Elegant Variation, a popular literary blog, makes a winning debut with this smart and funny novel about a hapless widower struggling to better himself. ... Out of Harry’s transformation, Sarvas weaves a moving story of redemption, a wryly funny take on self-improvement, and a reassuringly optimistic view of human nature."