Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Mark Slouka  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction Non-Fiction

Born: 1958 in Queens, New York

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Illinois Connection

Slouka worked at the University of Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Mark Slouka is the child of Czech immigrants. He is the internationally recognized author of six books. Both his fiction and nonfiction have been translated into sixteen languages. His stories have twice been selected for inclusion in Best American Short Stories, and his essays have appeared three times for Best American Essays. A contributing editor to Harpers Magazine since 2001, his work also appears in Ploughshares, Orion Magazine, Bomb, The Paris Review, Agni, and Granta. A Guggenheim and NEA fellowship recipient, he has taught literature and writing at Harvard, Columbia, and University of Chicago. He is currently living in Brewster, NY.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

War Of The Worlds: Cyberspace And The High-tech Assault On Reality
ISBN: 0465004873

Basic Books. 1996

Warning: A technological revolution is unfolding that promises, in the words of its creators, to redefine what it means to be human. Face-to-face communication (“F2F” to those in the know) is quickly becoming obsolete

already we turn to computers for information, entertainment, companionship—even love. Science fiction? Hardly. This is the brave new vision of the digital avant-garde, computer crusaders leading a high-tech assault on what was once known as reality. Sophisticated, well-funded, unabashedly messianic, they have the power, the technological know-how, and the marketplace savvy to make good on many of their wildest prophecies. With War of the Worlds, Mark Slouka gives us a funny, but eerily disturbing, humanist's look at the culture of cyberspace.

Lost Lake: Stories
ISBN: 0375402152

Knopf. 1998

In twelve beautifully imagined stories linked by character and setting, Mark Slouka paints an unforgettable portrait of three generations of men and women under the spell of a landscape with a powerful history, and of a body of water that has a grip on their souls and destinies, defying their understanding even as it elevates and transforms their lives.

Set in a tiny Czech community on the shores of New York's Lost Lake, the stories in Mark Slouka's first collection are elegiac and expansive, illuminated by a quiet, complicated glory in the natural world and by the mysterious motions of the human spirit within it. In "Genesis," the collection's creation myth, an inspired young war veteran gazes into a cow pasture and sees the lake for the first time, and in it the chance it holds for a better life

in the exquisitely written fishing story "The Shape of Water," a young boy's recollection of a momentous catch occasions a later reflection on the elusiveness of memory and the power of invented truths

in "The Exile," a young woman struggles unsuccessfully against an adulterous passion and in the dead of night rows out across the lake to meet her lover on the opposite shore. In all, Lost Lake emerges as a place of epic significance and enduring simplicity, the source and the settling point of all stories--less a body of water than a notion, a dwelling place, a spiritual home.

God's Fool
ISBN: 0375402160

Knopf. 2002

Born attached at the chest, Chang and Eng were considered a marvel, an omen, an act of God, evidence of His glory or proof of His wrath. Uniquely cursed, enslaved to one another for life, they were a joke of nature variously feared and abhorred, disturbing our most basic assumptions about the human condition. Mark Slouka’s dazzling achievement in God’s Fool is the ease and compassion with which he draws the story of one human being from this ghastly predicament. Looking beyond the twins’ physical connection, he imagines one man’s life of ordinary grace and suffering, longing and resistance, and the ties of love, as well as of blood, that bind and redeem us all.

By any standard, theirs is a history of epic variety and drama. Their birth, to an illiterate fishmonger, sent midwives screaming from the room. Condemned to death, they survived to be brought, at the age of thirteen, to the Royal Palace in Bangkok for an audience with King Rama III. At seventeen, laboring as merchants on the Meklong River, they saw their world erased by a typhoon. Consigned for three hundred pounds to an opium trader by their mother, who was desperate to ensure their survival, they sailed for Europe. There they entertained kings and counselors in salons and drawing rooms from Brussels to Rome, and, in Paris, met the woman who would divide them as no surgeon ever could.

When the culture that had lifted them up inevitably cast them down, they landed in the flophouses of London, where, penniless and starving, they were discovered by Phineas T. Barnum, who packed them off to America along with an assortment of bearded ladies and two-headed calves, albino beauties and dog boys, German midgets and twelve-fingered flute players. Leaving Barnum at the height of their fame to take a last stab at normal life, they settled in North Carolina, where, despite the tensions growing between them, they found, for a time, tranquillity as farmers and slave owners, marrying a pair of sisters and fathering, between them, twenty children. Their peace, however, would prove to be short-lived. As the Civil War drew closer, and their world began to tilt, they would first turn against each other and then, faced with a trial unlike any they
had ever known, draw together once more. No longer young, they set off to find the war, and to save what could be saved. It would be there, on that very real battlefield, that Chang would enact his final, terrifying battle with fate.

Sweeping and intimate, vibrant and austere, God’s Fool is a novel of soaring ambition and accomplishment from a fiercely gifted storyteller.

The Visible World
ISBN: 0618756434

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2007

The Visible World is an evocative, powerfully romantic novel about a son's attempt to understand his mother's past, a search that leads him to a tragic love affair and the heroic story of the assassination of a high-ranking Nazi by the Czech resistance.
The narrator of The Visible World, the American-born son of Czech immigrants living in New York, grows up in an atmosphere haunted by fragments of a past he cannot understand. At the heart of that past is his mother, Ivana, a spontaneous, passionate woman drifting ever closer to despair. As an adult, the narrator travels to Prague, hoping to learn about a love affair between his then young mother and a member of the resistance named Tomas, an affair whose untimely end, he senses, lay behind Ivana's unhappiness. Ultimately unable to complete his knowledge of the past, he imagines the two lovers as participants in one of the more dramatic (and true) moments of the war, and through the deeply romantic story he tells, creates not only the ending of their story but the beginning of his own.

The Visible World is a literary page-turner and an immensely moving novel about the vagaries of love and our need to make sense of life through the telling of stories.

Essays from the Nick of Time: Reflections and Refutations
ISBN: 1555975712

Graywolf Press. 2010

A new collection of prophetic essays from one of the sharpest practitioners of the form

Mark Slouka writes from a particular vantage point, one invoked by Thoreau, who wished "to improve the nick of time . . . to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future." At this bewildering convergence, Slouka asks us to consider what it means to be human and what we must revive, or reject, in order to retain our humanity in the modern world.

Collected over fifteen years, these essays include fascinating explorations of the relationship between memory and history and the nature of "tragedy" in a media-driven culture

meditations on the transcendent "wisdom" of the natural world and the role of silence in an age of noise

and arguments in defense of the political value of leisure time and the importance of the humanities in an age defined by the language of science and industry. Written in Slouka's supple and unerring prose, celebratory, critical, and passionate, Essays from the Nick of Time reawakens us to the moment and place in which we find ourselves, caught between the fading presence of the past and the neon lure of the future.

Brewster: A Novel
ISBN: 0393348830

W. W. Norton & Company. 2014

"Intense and elegiac…devastatingly agile." ―New York Times Book Review

The year is 1968. The world is changing, and sixteen-year-old Jon Mosher is determined to change with it. Racked by guilt over his older brother’s childhood death and stuck in the dead-end town of Brewster, New York, he turns his rage into victories running track. Meanwhile, Ray Cappicciano, a rebel as gifted with his fists as Jon is with his feet, is trying to take care of his baby brother while staying out of the way of his abusive, ex-cop father. When Jon and Ray form a tight friendship, they find in each other everything they lack at home, but it’s not until Ray falls in love with beautiful, headstrong Karen Dorsey that the three friends begin to dream of breaking away from Brewster for good. Freedom, however, has its price. As forces beyond their control begin to bear down on them, Jon sets off on the race of his life―a race to redeem his past and save them all.

Mark Slouka's work has been called "relentlessly observant, miraculously expressive" (New York Times Book Review). Reverberating with compassion, heartache, and grace, Brewster is an unforgettable coming-of-age story from one of our most compelling novelists.

A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
A Washington Post Notable Book of 2013
A Barron’s Favorite Book of the Year, selected by Daniel Woodrell
A Booklist Best Adult Books for Young Adults Editor’s Choice 2013


Awards

-- Best Book of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle for God’s Fool New York Times Notable Book in 1998 for the short story collection Lost Lake and the nonfiction work War of the WorldsNational Magazine Award for fiction for his short story, The Woodcarvers Tale PEN/O.Henry Prize Stories for Crossing and The Hare's MaskBritish Book Award finalist for his novel The Visible World in 2008PEN/Diamonstein-Speilvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for his 2011 collection of essays, Essays from the Nick of Time