About Vernon Downs:
Charlie Martens is desperate for stability in an otherwise peripatetic life. An explosion that killed his parents when he was young robbed him of normalcy and he was shuttled from relative to relative, left alone to decipher the world he encountered in order to cobble together an answer as to how he would live. Ever the outcast, Charlie recognizes in Olivia, an international student from London, the sense of otherness he feels and their relationship seems to promise salvation. But when Olivia abandons him, his desperate mind fixates on her favorite writer, Vernon Downs, who becomes an emblem for reunion with Olivia.
Charlie’s quest takes him from Phoenix to New York City and when chance brings him into proximity to Vernon Downs, he quickly ingratiates himself into Downs’s world. Proximity invites certain temptations, though, and it isn’t long before Charlie moves dangerously from fandom to apprentice to outright possession.
“Vernon Downs is a gripping, hypnotically written and unnerving look at the dark side of literary adulation. Jaime Clarke’s tautly suspenseful novel is a cautionary tale for writers and readers alike–after finishing it, you may start to think that J.D. Salinger had the right idea after all.”
— Tom Perrotta, author of Election, Little Children, and The Leftovers
“All strong literature stems from obsession. Vernon Downs belongs to a tradition that includes Nicholson Baker’s U and I, Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage, and—for that matter—Pale Fire. What makes Clarke’s excellent novel stand out isn’t just its rueful intelligence, or its playful semi-veiling of certain notorious literary figures, but its startling sadness. Vernon Downs is first rate.”
—Matthew Specktor, author of American Dream Machine
“Moving and edgy in just the right way. Love (or lack of) and Family (or lack of) is at the heart of this wonderfully obsessive novel.”
— Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
“Jaime Clarke’s Vernon Downs is a brilliant meditation on obsession, art, and celebrity. Charlie Martens’s mounting fixation with the titular Vernon is not only driven by the burn of heartbreak and the lure of fame, but also a lost young man’s struggle to locate his place in the world. Vernon Downs is an intoxicating novel, and Clarke is a dazzling literary talent.”
— Laura van den Berg, author of The Isle of Youth
“An engrossing novel about longing and impersonation, which is to say, a story about the distance between persons, distances within ourselves. Clarke’s prose is infused with music and intelligence and deep feeling.”
– Charles Yu, author of Sorry Please Thank You
“Vernon Downs is a fascinating and sly tribute to a certain fascinating and sly writer, but this novel also perfectly captures the lonely distortions of a true obsession.”
–Dana Spiotta, author of Stone Arabia
Jaime Clarke is the author of the novel We’re So Famous, editor of Don’t You Forget About Me: Contemporary Writers on the Films of John Hughes, Conversations with Jonathan Lethem, and Talk Show: On the Couch with Contemporary Writers, as well as co-editor of No Near Exit: Writers Select Their Favorite Work from Post Road Magazine and Boston Noir 2: The Classics. He is a founding editor of the literary magazine Post Road, now published at Boston College, and co-owner of Newtonville Books, an independent bookstore in Boston.
Coming April 2015 from Roundabout Press:
THE MELISSA PROCESS by Jaime Clarke
In this sequel to Vernon Downs, Jaime Clarke enlarges the portrait of Charlie Martens, a young man grappling with how to navigate the world. Set in Phoenix, seven years before the events of Vernon Downs, Charlie finds himself released from a voluntary stay at a behavioral clinic in the Sonoran desert, the result of some confusion between him and a woman he meets while tending bar in Florida where Charlie fled to forget Jenny, his high school sweetheart, whose sudden marriage to someone else devastates him. But Charlie’s homecoming launches him into a chain of events with a cast of characters that assault his fragile state and further undermine his general impressions about life and how to live.
The Melissa Process roves the deep terrain of our want for emotional connection and is a devastating narrative about love, sex, and friendship.
“Jaime Clarke’s The Melissa Process is so fresh and daring, a necessary book, a barbaric yawp that revels in its taboo: the sexual and emotional desires of today’s hetero young man. Clarke is a sure and sensitive writer, his line are clean and carry us right to the tender heart of his lovelorn hero, Charlie Martens. This is the book Hemingway and Kerouac would want to read. It’s the sort of honesty in this climate that many of us aren’t brave enough to write.” – Tony D’Souza, author of The Konkans.
“This unsettling novel ponders human morality and sexuality, and the murky interplay between the two. Charlie Martens is a compelling anti-hero with a voice that can turn on a dime, from shrugging naiveté to chilling frankness. The Melissa Process is a candid, often startling portrait of an unconventional life.”— J. Robert Lennon, author of Familiar
“Funny and surprising, The Melissa Process is terrific fun to read … and, as a spectacle of bad behavior, pretty terrifying to contemplate.” – Adrienne Miller, author of The Coast of Akron
“Charlie Martens is my favorite kind of narrator, an obsessive yearner whose commitment to his worldview is so overwhelming that the distance between his words and the reader’s usual thinking gets clouded fast. The Melissa Process will draw you in, make you complicit, and finally leave you both discomfited and thrilled.” —Matt Bell, author of In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods