Instant Karma
Instant Karma




Press Reviews

"...concentrated and diabolically clever novel... this is a tricky puzzle of a tale, one readers will enjoy in direct proportion to their interest in the roles books and libraries play in our lives, and to their familiarity with the diverse sources Swartz so cannily samples and remixes in this intelligent, arch, timely and piquant satire." - The Chicago Tribune

" Welcome to the oddball world of David Felsenstein, a Chicago loner who's part Young Werther, part Travis Bickle and part post-adolescent Borges... a kind of Dewey Decimal tribute to Paul Auster’s Leviathan..." - The Los Angeles Times

"Imagine a collaboration between David Sedaris and David Foster Wallace on a book about the interrelationship of art and anarchy.... What you end up with is Mark Swartz's weird but wonderful Instant Karma..." - Washington City Paper

"Mark Swartz's irreverent first novel, Instant Karma, features a lonely bookish pack rat... there is some sense in which Instant Karma can stand as an odd second cousin to Jonathan Franzen's recent collection of essays, How To Be Alone." - Readerville



Quotations

"Instant Karma is insta-good, a tour de force, an engaging, farcical, joyful reprise of 1000 great ideas tumbling around in one humble brain, in one ordinary body. It has a great, remarkable, explosive ending that explodes right into your heart. Buy it and keep it with you at all times." -Frederick Barthelme, author of Painted Desert and co-author of Double Down

"An obsessive read about an obsessive reader, Mark Swartz's Instant Karma is a book with the sort of power that makes you remember the sort of power books have." -Daniel Handler, author of Watch Your Mouth and The Basic Eight

"Instant Karma is irresistible from beginning to end. To make this original treatment of a complex and indeed zany subject so consistently entertaining is proof of a new and prodigious talent." -Harry Mathews, author of Cigarettes and Tlooth

"Funny, erudite, tender, and sad, Instant Karma traces the mental disintegration of a young man's journey from solitary bilbiophile to Dada-library terrorist. But the book is also a meditation on our fragmented culture — that mysterious hodge-podge of conflicting images and myriad bits of text that threaten to destroy all possible meaning. In Mark Swartz's hapless anti-hero, David Felsenstein, the distance between incendiary idea and literal explosion becomes both dangerously small and frighteningly real." -Siri Hustvedt, author of Yonder: Essays and The Enchantment of Lily Dahl

"What a pleasure it is to read a book that is so wholly itself — contained and furious, timely and profound, and deeply, rigorously smart. I underlined passage after passage, as Swartz synthesizes the voices of countless other authors with his own, making a book built of books, creating both castles and rubble in the reader's mind. A striking debut." -Aimee Bender, author of The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and An Invisible Sign of My Own

"Instant Karma reminds me of a number of my favorite books — Gogol’s scary-funny Diary of a Madman comes to mind. But it's a special kind of madness, book madness, the terror and pleasure of reading that is conjured up, making one think of the novels of David Markson, the inspired frenzy of John Leonard's critical prose, and of course the great novel in footnotes, Pale Fire. But Instant Karma is sui generis: Mark Swartz offers us an exploded library of crazy wisdom in brilliant fragments." -Ron Rosenbaum, author, Explaining Hitler and The Secret Parts of Fortune

"This novella proves that too much reading can cause a shy boy to use explosives. The attenuated Young Werther here, direct heir to all the neurasthenic adolescents in literature, updates himself with late twentieth-century books, but stays in character. Nice satire, useful common reader." -Andrei Codrescu, NPR commentator and author of Ay Cuba! A Socio-Erotic Journey and Cassanova in Bohemia

"As a reference librarian I have sometimes wondered what goes on in the hearts and minds of the many people who use the library all day, every day. Swartz provides just such a glimpse into one fictional psyche. Instant Karma’s troubled protagonist’s diary entries, obsessively footnoted from idiosyncratically disparate library texts, lead toward a potentially explosive end." -Jim Van Buskirk, Reference Librarian, San Francisco Public Library