The Origins of Happiness

February 11th is the official publication date for All the Happiness You Deserve by Michael Piafsky. This is Prospect Park’s first entry in the sobering and oxymoronic ‘literary fiction’ category, a category which, by the way, didn’t exist until I was well out of the ‘assigned reading’ period of my life … if you don’t count Michael Porter’s Competitive Advantage, that is (and I know you don’t). Frankly, I’m still trying to sort out the literary fiction Maginot Line, which occasionally feels like a fortification surrounding male twenty-somethings with Iowa Writers’ Workshop street cred. But that’s an aside. I feel extremely lucky to be publishing Happiness; I think of it as a poetic, relevant, and compelling paean to a uniquely masculine form of ennui.

rider-Waite_Fool_largeHappiness is memorable in many ways, not least of which is the deft use of the dreaded and divisive second-person form.  Despite a long and illustrious history of second-person narratology (Tolstoy, Hawthorne, Faulkner, Calvino, Atwood, and McInerney to name a few), there may be no other literary device that is quite so contentious among serious readers. When it comes to second person, there’s no room for impartiality. You love it or you hate it. Happiness also lightly draws on the lyrical imagery of the Tarot for its chapter organization. But this is no heavy-handed new age dose of mysticism. The Tarot functions effectively as the organizing principle behind the telling of our everyman’s life story.    

Happiness was also that rarest of manuscripts, a genuine Code Red submission. Code Red in these parts is short for drop everything and start reading. And after completing about three chapters, that’s exactly what I asked Colleen to do. Colleen is usually juggling about eighteen tasks simultaneously, fifteen of which are critical to the success of our press. Code Red is serious business around here. But she was equally impressed with Michael’s prose and, after only the briefest episode of ‘but he’s not from the west coast’ handwringing, we worked out an agreement thanks to the dynamic Chris Kepner of Victoria Sanders & Associates.

Here’s one of my (many) favorite passages. Remarkably, it merits reading aloud:

”This moment you will always remember perfectly. The image will come to you at odd hours: in the last fleeting seconds of a dream that leaves you doused in acrid sweat. In the gestures and comforts and silences of all the women you will know and of all those about whom you have already gathered your memories. This picture will ripple your unconscious. It will imprint itself onto the microscopic eye specks that presage old age. The graceful calculus of her neck will accompany you into your final days, when your own bone mass has long abdicated its struggle, when the arch of your shoulder is nothing more than a girlish enticement to the executioner’s blade. The Kinemacolor of the grass on her knees, the mingled smells carried aloft, the sound of her laughter. Henceforth the scent borne by every summer breeze will disperse its atoms before ever reaching your nostrils, its sweetness only a rumor, preserving nothing but its memory, as if from a just-vacated room. The weight and heft of her breast in your cupped palm will mock you every first cold autumn morning. For all the seconds and days and seasons of your life, every laugh will conceal a virulent echo like a Trojan horse. The taste of her will spoil the vintage of every wine. You will have only this reminder, this affliction, this burden, and of everything that remains (in the muddled and star-crossed devastation of your crumbled memory), this portrait alone will remain pristine: her arms outstretched at the fringe of the pool, her hair like a crown, the loops and curves of her body rounded to perfect infinity.”

From Booklist:

“… Beautifully written and deeply rewarding. Piafsky is heading toward becoming a major writer.”

From Foreword Reviews:

 “Brilliant prose … Michael Piafsky is a word wizard who moves readers from pity to humor to pathos in All the Happiness You Deserve … [He] peppers each chapter with prose so dramatic and suspenseful that the book becomes impossible to put down.”

I hope you love Happiness as much as we do and that you’ll experience the reader’s version of Code Red in the pleasure and power of Michael’s storytelling. That is to say, drop everything and read this book.

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