Barking Up The Wrong Geek – An Absurdist Slice of Americana Noir

"Barking Up The Wrong Geek," by Lauren Wolpert - an absurdist noir tale in the vein of Nightmare Alley.

“Barking Up The Wrong Geek,” by Lauren Wolpert

The well-crafted characters in “Barking up the Wrong Geek” have adapted and evolved in order to survive. Their world is certainly dark and terrifying — but this debut novel is neither thriller nor horror story. With dark humor and unflinching honesty, Wolpert has created a space unlike any other.

Have you ever been “sucked in and enthralled” by a book? Lauren Wolpert’s debut novel, “Barking Up The Wrong Geek,” takes you on a heinous and grotesque world of a circus carnival.

Some stories contain characters so oddly memorable they forever stick in our minds. If characters from William L. Gresham’s Nightmare Alley, John Irving’s The World According to Garp, Haruki Murakami’s After The Quake and the Netflix show Bojack Horseman had a Thursday evening poker game, they wouldn’t start until Bart Barker took his seat at the table.

Bart Barker is the book’s main character. A carnival barker, Bart fashions himself an entrepreneur. Bart had been full of promise once. Tall, handsome in an Elvis sort of way, full of the confidence of the young white man, he fully expected to have a resplendent life. When at last he confronted that his life wouldn’t be epic, he went with twisted and surreal instead.

It took Lauren one year to write “Barking Up The Wrong Geek,” and five years for rewrites. But The road to publication was much longer, and more winding. Long before David Lynch, long before American Horror Story, Barking Up The Wrong Geek was conceived out of the unique tenuous truce between cynicism and whimsy that inhabits Lauren’s mind. Sadly, happiness got in the way. Lauren met the love of their life, and as they settled into the comforts of nesting, Lauren put the book on indefinite hold. Lauren thought it imprudent to bring her Geek, with Bart Barker’s brooding amorality and the disturbing habits of the chickenhead-eating twins, into the happy household. And so the book languished, through a happy marriage, through cancer and widowhood, through a move to Joshua Tree.

It took Donald Trump’s odd tenure in the White House, a global pandemic, and the death of Lauren’s mother to create the perfect storm that lifted Lauren’s twisted vision of American suburbia and landed it into our collective psyche.

“When I wrote the book, Bart Barker was the worst person I knew,” Lauren says. “That is no longer the case. Today, far worse people than Bart stand in front of cameras and microphones, tweet from private planes, and b*tch against science and common sense.”

In Lauren’s book, the perverse thoughts that we almost think before we catch ourselves unfold fully and unravel. At one point, a character muses about the sound children make when mimicking someone’s throat being cut open “though in reality, it doesn’t cause much noise. But they haven’t learned that yet – this isn’t high school.”

Through the absurdist lens of the characters’ pathos, Lauren Wolpert makes us look at ourselves with a fretful eye, wondering how much of that pathos dwells inside all of us.

“Sure it’s dark,” says Lauren Wolpert of their creation. “The dark is where the meek can be. The meek aren’t going to inherit the earth, so we’ve taken the night.”

Here’s an excerpt from a recent review: “The well-crafted characters in “Barking up the Wrong Geek” have adapted and evolved in order to survive. Their world is certainly dark and terrifying — but this debut novel is neither thriller nor horror story. With dark humor and unflinching honesty, Wolpert has created a space unlike any other.”

Barking Up The Wrong Geek is available for sale at laurenwolpert.com on Amazon.com and Ingram.

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