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The Contortionist's Handbook Paperback – 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007194153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007194155
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 101,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'A dazzling and highly original debut novel which instantly establishes its author as one of the most interesting writers to emerge in years. This book deserves to be massive and I think it will be' Irvine Welsh

‘Craig Clevenger has crafted an unforgettable antihero in John Dolan Vincent. This is an extraordinary debut’ Richard Kelly, director of Donnie Darko

‘What sticks out about this remarkable debut are its pitch-perfect shock ending and John Vincent himself – his complex, conflicting mind, original voice and unnervingly self-defeating existence’ Time Out

'A very impressive debut. The reader sees it from the con-artist's perspective, delivered in a snappy, first-person voice that Clevenger writes with assured flair. This is a tightly controlled piece of work with an intriguingly original approach to the genre that marks the author out as one to watch' Metro

‘Clevenger has created a manic monologist whose paranoia-inducing world pulls you in completely’ Seattle Times

‘Clevenger’s talent is revealed in his ability to create a true testament to the resilience of the human spirit’ USA Today

‘Immaculately detailed and emotionally explosive: this is rolling, riveting stuff’ Kirkus Reviews [starred]

About the Author

Craig Clevenger was born in Dallas, Texas and raised in Southern California, where he studied English at California State University, Long Beach. He has travelled extensively and lived in Dublin and London. He now lives in California where he is at work on his second novel, Dermaphoria.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is one of those books with a "hero" one really shouldn't like, but it`s impossible not to sympathise with him. John Vincent is a drug addict, from a squalid background, living in a twilight world of crime and unconventional sexual encounters, creating alter-egos for himself as he evades being sectioned for repeated overdoses. John Vincent claims they are his attempt to stop the unbearable pain of unexplained headaches. He is also evading underworld figures who want him for his talent at creating identities, a talent he has frequently used for himself as he constantly re-invents himself. Until he meets a woman who has as many secrets as he does. Intriguing, yes, but icy cold and at time a bit over the top in the "male fantasy" department.
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Format: Paperback
BUY THIS BOOK IF:
You have any interest in psychiatric or psychological matters
You like masses of detail
You like masculine, relatively unemotional biographies
You enjoy books which start in the present and then explain what happened to get to that point.
You have an interest in drug culture
You would rather be left to think at the end of the book than have all the loose ends neatly tied up. This book ends in a mess of ends.
DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK IF:
You like books which start in the present and continue along a standard time scale of chapter 1: two days later, chapter 5: next month, etc.
You like lots of emotions in your books
You cannot handle very long, very detailed sentences
You like books which 'go somewhere' and finish in a very different place to where they started.
The story of a man who constantly changes identites in order to escape from various authorities. he is actually running away from many things, including his past and a dozen authorities all over america. After his fifth overdose, psychiatrists cannot figure out whether it was a suicide attempt or not. As the psychiatrist takes 'Daniel' through the interview, 'Daniel' (or John, or Steven, or Eric, whoever he is today) takes the reader through his life story to how he got where he is.
Good page-turner.
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Format: Kindle Edition
When a book comes recommended by Chuck Palahniuk and by Irvine Welsh, you can guarantee that the content will be dark, discursive, and dangerous. Fortunately, their recommendation was more than publisher's hype. Without doubt, I can say that 'The Contortionist's Handbook' is one of the most complex and the most compelling novels that I've read. My only disappointment is that Mr. Craig Clevenger is not more widely known.

Trying to summarise the premise would be foolish in a short review. Mr. Clevenger has written a novel in which the narrator is unreliable, the plot non-linear, and the message loud and clear. His book describes in aching and intimate detail how a young, precocious child is lost in the correctional system. Moreover, the reader can come to feel sympathy for the young man's plight. When all other paths are barred, crime is the only way to make a living.

In terms of style, Mr. Clevenger owes much to Chuck Palahniuk. Reading his disjointed, masculine prose, I was reminded of 'Fight Club'. Regardless, Mr. Clevenger has written more than mere pastiche. His first novel is more subtle, more lyrical, and more polished. When reading 'The Contortionist's Handbook', you will feel as though you're attending class. You will learn how to fake personal documents, and how to fool medical professionals. More importantly, you will learn why anyone would try.

In summary, 'The Contortionist's Handbook' is an unpretentious entry into the ranks of postmodern fiction. I'll be reading 'Dermaphoria' in due course.
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Format: Paperback
Chuck Palahniuk says (on the cover) something like 'This is the best book I've read in five years, maybe even ten'
I have to agree. This is an amazing debut. It's a perfect rollercoaster of a book! Every peak and trough is placed exactly right. It'll grab you and even when you finish it'll stay with you. You will miss your stop if you read it on public transport. You will want to stay off work to finish it.
How good is this book really? It's one of those rare books that you'd spend your own money buying numerous copies of to give to other people.
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Format: Paperback
What a fantastic read! Chuck Palaniuck's recommendation caught my eye and was enough for me to snap this up! I'm glad I did! The novel follows the antics of Daniel Fletcher, a man who is constantly changing his identity. He is so good at it that he can fool anyone and everyone, even the authorities and the psychiatrist brought in to analyse him. He is a great character and Clevenger writes the part so well.

His conversations with the psychiatrist are particularly captivating as he is able to anticipate every move, every gesture and every question posed to him. Clevenger is a stickler for the smallest details and that's what makes him a great writer - I'm sure he could write about fly-fishing and I'd be equally fixated!

I loved it from start to finish. Short, but extremely sweet.
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Format: Paperback
This book tells the story of a man who continually changes his name, life history, location and friends, to try and erase his terrible childhood. It starts with him having taken an overdose, and he has to speak to a psychiatrist for them to decide whether he needs to be sectioned. He's done this so many times that he knows what he should do or say to make people think he's sane, he knows what the psychiatrist is thinking about him from his notes and his body language. It goes on to explain how and why he changes his name and life so often, and how he meets a woman who he finally tells that he's not who he is...and then discovers that she is not who she is either. I really enjoyed this book, more than I thought I would. Its interesting to see how he manages to totally change his life and story all the time. It's fiction, but theres some notes about the author at the end which make you think that maybe he could actually do something like that, which is interesting. Recommended!
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