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The Contortionist's Handbook Paperback – 4 Apr 2005

4.0 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; First Edition edition (4 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007194161
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007194162
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 13.4 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,669,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

‘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

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

‘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, but currently resides in California where he is at work on his second novel, Dermaphoria.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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: 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 Verified Purchase
I really can't understand why this book gets such favourable reviews. It's title really does say it all as its about as interesting as reading a handbook. Repetitive in the extreme. Had to stop reading after page 80.
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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 wasn't available on amazon.co.uk until recently and so I got it elsewhere (direct from the US) - now that it is available here, I recommend to everyone fortune enough to chance upon this page that they buy it... It is a gripping story of personal reinvention against the backdrop of the L.A. underworld. The kind of story which lingers in the mind afterwards, the kind of book you make sure you keep handy for the inevitable re-read.
I recommend it wholeheartedly.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a book that landed in my lap after a slew of recommendations. The high praise from Chuck Palahniuk and Irvine Welsh of all people was intriguing enough, but when there was unanimous pressure from most of my literary pals to not so much read it as force it into my eyes RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND, I picked up a copy, sat in the bath and breezed through it in an hour.

A very peculiar, very dissatisfying hour.

See, when I think about the book as a whole, I like it. The prose is razor sharp and machine-gun relentless, "Molly" and John are beautifully realised, and on the whole the plot is a masterclass in "show, not tell" storytelling.

But.

There was something which stopped me from enjoying it as much as I feel like I should have. That ending. That ramshackle, ambiguous, sputtering ending. After the book so skilfully raising the bar (and my blood pressure), for it to end in such a muddle was a dreadful disappointment. After I turned the last page, I climbed out the bath and sulked for ten minutes, feeling high, dry and like the book was all dressed up with nowhere to go.

I would still recommend it, mind you, but it's not perfect. But it could have been, and I think that's what annoys me the most about it.
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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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