Part Unabomber, part van Gogh, David Pelenstein yearns to create an unforgettable masterpiece. He spends his days in the Chicago Public Library, browsing the stacks in search of connections between obscure volume, scrupulously footnoting his research into anarchy, magnetotherapy, plastic surgery and more. We read this journal, tracing his course through books and philosophies as he prepares his magnum opus–blowing up the library that he loves. Fueled by lust for Eve Jablom, the young woman at the library’s checkout desk, Felsenstein hones his plans to perfection. All that remains is to carry them out.
“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 Matthews, author of Cigarettes and Tlooth
” . . . a tour de force, an engaging, farcical, joyful reprise of 1000 great ideas tumbling around in one humble brain, in one ordinary body.”–Frederick Barthlme, author of painted Desert
” . . . 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
“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
“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
Mark Swartz is a writer from Chicago now living in Brooklyn. He works for the Museum of Modern Art as a copywriter and editor.