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The Official Website of Mark SaFranko

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Fiction
Hating Olivia is a remarkable tale of obsession and lust...

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REVIEWS/CRITICAL ASSESSMENT

"By accomplishing so many different tasks in what appears, at first glance, to be a rather straightforward narrative, SaFranko successfully stretches the genre of crime fiction through the portrait he presents in...The Suicide."

The Suicide is the subject of the chapter '"Detecting Gender" in Dr. Heather Duerre Humann's new critical study, Gender Bending Detective Fiction.



SAFRANKO AND THE FRENCH ONES

Alors qu’un nouveau livre de SaFranko est sorti en France cette année, il est peut-être temps de rappeler qui est le bonhomme, de parler un peu de ce rapport spécial qu’il a avec ce pays, et de la manière dont un écrivain peut être totalement ignoré dans son propre pays et obtenir un franc succès à l’étranger (presqu’un culte). Incident sur la 10ème Avenue est un recueil de nouvelles traduites du français par Annie Brun, genre qui a pourtant moins de lecteurs en France qu’aux US. Avec les milliers et milliers de ventes de sa série de romans chez 13e Note, Mark SaFranko s’est forgé un clan d’aficionados, et nous pouvons espérer que ceux ci se jetteront sur ce genre (nouvelle), grâce à LaDragonne (éditeur d’Incident sur la 10e Avenue).
SaFranko mélange son Amérique à un style qui lui vient de ses lectures françaises. Il est bien plus qu’un autre avatar du dirty-realism – s’il vous plait – même si la critique et son lectorat le rapprochent toujours de Bukowski et des autres (il y a une mode en France concernant les Bukowski-wannabe, et ils en veulent toujours plus) : il tient à une écriture plus classique et il nous permet de le découvrir plus profondément avec ces nouvelles (Ravel, Le Grand Cerf !), hors du cycle Zajack – c’est un successeur de Carver, un tenant de la tradition de la short-story américaine, un fils de Miller avec qui il partage l’amour de la France (encore un qui fut célébré ici avant de l’être dans son pays).
Le jour ou j’ai rencontré SaFranko, il y a quelques années, il effectuait une séance de dédicaces à Paris, rencontrant ses lecteurs – il ne s’attendait surement pas une telle foule. Je me souviens ces quelques mots que j’ai traduit d’un fan pour SaFranko, il essayait de lui dire quelque chose comme : « Putain d’Olivia, c’est 37.2° le matin en mieux, je vous remercie tellement pour ce roman... » Je suis certain que SaFranko se demandait ce que signifiait toute cette scène, ébahi, et alors que nous mangions un burger quelques heures après, il était toujours remué, très touché, parlant peu. Nous sommes au 21e Siècle et la représentation/​mystique de l’Amérique à l’étranger reste sensiblement la même qu’au précédent, vendant du rêve perpétuel, si bien que les récits de losers de la terre des libres, si paradoxaux, plaisent aux lecteurs outre-Atlantique. A proprement parler, ce qui fait de SaFranko un auteur à part est ce regard tourné vers l’Europe littéraire, et en particulier vers la francophonie (De New York aux côtes du vieux continent, il n’y a ici qu’un pas) : Simenon, le prolifique écrivain belge est une vraie influence, et nous pouvons trouver des similarités en terme de style et d’atmosphère, légèrement bougons et adeptes de descriptions perturbantes. Ils partagent ironiquement autre chose (en plus d’être des machines de guerre ultra-productives) : tous deux sont connus pour un genre minime au regard de leur œuvre générale (Simenon avec le roman policier, SaFranko avec le réalisme sale). Nous pourrions parler de Céline également (peut-être notre plus grand écrivain), un maître pour lui (God Bless America) – l’intérêt pour le détail de la crasse, la peinture de la misère, et pour un autre langage... Un écrivain américain, damné dans les rues de New York, boudé par son pays, héritier de la tradition américaine et massivement influencé par les écrivains francophones du 20e... Avez-vous besoin d’autre chose pour saisir la raison du succès de SaFranko en France ?
Traduction de l’article de Tom Buron « SaFranko and the French ones », The Savage Kick (Murder Slim Press), 2016


Dieu Benisse L'Amerique (God Bless America)

Ever since JJ Rousseau and his Confessions we've known autobiography is a perilous genre. The American writer Mark SaFranko boldly gets down to it with this unsettling novel, telling us the bitter story of a young Polish immigrant, who looks very much like him. A harrowing childhood in a slightly crazy family, a working class area in New Jersey during the 50s and 60s, chaotic school years, troubled sexuality, violence and social frustration, lost illusions -- this very blunt novel furiously tearing the American dream to pieces often recalls the harshness of Harry Crew and Bukowski's nausea. SaFranko does it with a cynicism and a black humor -- qualities of greatness -- that give an unexpected elegance to this desperate tale.

A must read.

-- Le Figaro



Incident Sur La 10E Avenue

Le Matricule des Anges, March 2016
by Virginie Mailles Viard

Undecided, weak, married but sex addicted, jealous and selfish, writing novels, plays, and scenarios nobody cares for … Max is back on the literary scene – Max Zajack, American author Mark SaFranko’s alter ego. Max, a cult but accursed auteur, has to resign himself to doing odd jobs to contribute to household expenses. Having access to the wonderful world of film-making, duds and grade Z flicks, he finds an opportunity for a minor role as a day player. But when plan B actually consists of driving the producer’s son at his own expense and cleaning the bathrooms for the film crew, the life saving job looks more like drowning in troubled waters. Throughout the various stories that follow each other in the book, Mark SaFranko, with an afflicted yet mocking eye, watches his America go by, a country that crushes artists, where people play at hurting one another. Here comes Hedly, who after dumping his wife and kid for his lover, goes back to their place just to check whether his seat is still vacant. Then there is Paul, pursuing the mirage of his wife lost in the 9/​11 tragedy ; young Mack’s miraculous catch, yet leaving him unable to save his parents from their fierce mutual hatred. But if there is something of John Updike in this vision of dislocated human beings, something reminiscent of Rabbit in Max’s poignant molt, SaFranko's satirical verve acts as a brotherly injection given for salvation. SaFranko‘s world is that of New Jersey, New York, Manhattan, but behind each street, each door of each house, it’s our lives he manipulates with humour and cruelty. His precise sentences, his talent for sustaining pace and being in step with his characters, make some of the stories actually look like film long takes. Young Mack on his island and his rainbow trout will long be remembered.

Hating Olivia -- Bizarre Magazine (UK)

Most books I read that are about lust, drugs, sex and women make me cringe and hate the idiots who wrote them for not realizing they haven't got half the talent their heroes -- invariably Bukowski, Miller, Fante -- had. Mark SaFranko's Hating Olivia is a refreshing exception. The words 'raw', 'brutal', 'addictive' and 'brilliant' are so overused they have almost lost their meaning, but they are fitting descriptions of a memoir from a very, very talented author.

-- James Doorne


Lounge Lizard -- Bizarre Magazine (UK)

Echoes of Dan Fante's anti-hero Bruno Dante permeate SaFranko's brilliant follow-up to Hating Olivia, which is as honest and readable at its predecessor. Each page reflects the personality of a writer who can see a poetic beauty in the most mundane experiences -- suggesting SaFranko can hold his own with Miller, Fante (John and Dan) and Bukowski.

-- James Doorne


REVIEWS OF INCIDENT SUR LA 10E AVENUE

From "Bookalicious" (France)

"Incidents of Life"

Oh what great joy that with “Incident On Tenth Avenue” Mark SaFranko is back and in FRENCH! (Let’s admit it, we are too lazy to read him in English!)

We have known and loved Mark for his early writings with 13ème Note Publishing, the continuing saga of Max Zajack, the unruly avatar of this out-of-the-world multi-faceted author. We discovered his talent as a playwright in Minable (Seedy), a play that was published with E-Fractions. However, we didn’t know, unless we’d jumped to the other side of the pond and swam in his non-translated works, the scope of his pen.

And what a pen ! What talent ! Such GREAT short stories! Within 10 texts, Mark SaFranko has inscribed himself as one of the greatest new American short story writers with a personal flair. He has a gift, the incredible ability to uniquely capture his characters’ minds . The life trajectories he depicts, from the sheepish, adulterous husband who comes back to his wife, the man who happens to find an old lover, the guy about to yield to temptation as a stripper makes a pass at him, not to mention the one who gives in to the advances of a dubious prostitute and the many other unlikely yet ordinary adventures, all originate from one place : that of humanity coupled with sincerity. We feel like we are listening to a friend telling us about his tribulations, life, doubts and the flawed situations he got entangled with for all sorts of good or bad reasons. We have the impression that we could be him, with our hesitations, weaknesses, moments of delusion or lucidity.

Mark SaFranko doesn’t describe losers or people in search of identity or reference points. He describes people like you and me, or himself maybe. Everyday people who live, make mistakes, question themselves and may occasionally show more common sense than one would expect. In short, Mark once more carries us away much to our delight. With striking style he masters a demanding genre that is not particularly in vogue on this side of the Atlantic. A famous critic once said that we can judge the quality of an author by his short stories (or maybe I just came up with that idea on my own, so, thank you for giving me credit for it) : if so, Mark SaFranko certainly qualifies as a great author!

From "Diversions" Magazine (France)

Mark SaFranko is, along with Dan Fante, Tony O’Neill, and Jerry Stahl, one of the authors brought into the spotlight by 13ème Note, fervent defenders of independent American litterature. Unfortunately in November 2014, the axe fell on the small publishing house leaving a good number of orphaned readers to these writers who had become so familiar to us. When we discover that Mark SaFranko is being published again in France, we cannot help but sincerely thank La Dragonne for having the great idea of adding him to their catalog. An addition that seems only natural since the American is almost better known here than on the other side of the Atlantic.

Incident On Tenth Avenue is not a novel but a collection of short stories, an art in which the author excels. In ten pages, SaFranko manages to depict with disturbing ease moments of life where one can feel the fragile boundary between fiction and autobiography. Thus, it is with great pleasure that we become reacquainted with Max Zajack, the author’s alter ego, lost as always in a haze of sex and booze, between dead end jobs and true to the “magnificent loser” character unveiled in Hating Olivia up through Odd Jobs. Jinx and failure are hiding in each one of these stories even when we think there might be a glimmer of hope after the successful catch of a fish in "The Executioner". The black cloud of 9/​11 that is never far from this native New Jersey writer’s mind seems to be the cause of the darkness hiding behind the golden façade of the American way of life described in "Rescuing Ravel". SaFranko completely masters this style of writing and we would almost regret not having more of it to read until the joy of our favorite author’s return quickly satisfies this craving. Not to mention that the book’s presentation makes it a wonderful object that will fit perfectly on our bookshelf amidst our 13ème Note collection.

A new Mark SaFranko book is set for publication in the US this year. Let’s hope that La Dragonne will go ahead and offer us many more pleasant evenings of reading, with a glass of bourbon under hand and a Dylan record on the turntable.

-- Florian Antunes Pires

From "Undernielivre.net" (France)

Mark SaFranko is finally back after 4 novels published with 13ème Note (
Hating Olivia, 2009; Lounge Lizard, 2010; God Bless America, 2011; & Odd Jobs in 2013) as well as a play published by E-Fractions (Seedy, 2013). We were apprehensive about his future here in France, with good reason : the fact that 13ème Note didn’t want to publish novels and stories that were not stamped Max Zajack, soon followed by the closing of 13ème Note publishing house could have sealed the fate of Mark SaFranko’s relationship with France. This was not counting on La Dragonne Publishing and the attentiveness of one of Mark SaFranko’s friends to an email from the publisher. So, Hallelujah!, the “dirty realism Made in SaFranko” is finally back and in short story format.

At the risk of repeating myself, short stories are an art of their own with their fetish authors (Raymond Carver, Charles Burkowski, etc) and a popular format in the US that is having a hard time piercing the French market but has a great number of aficionados nonetheless! Mark SaFranko likes short stories and he likes them so much that he has written a small stock of them...around 150...enough to keep you busy.

Incident On Tenth Avenue is his first collection translated in French, named after a revised 2015 story previously published in “Le Cafard Hérétique” review. Along with it you will find nine original short stories. It is with certain pleasure that the reader rediscovers Max Zajack in his (mis-) adventures with all of his verve and notorious bad luck that makes us all like to see him suffer. But it is also an opportunity to discover Mark SaFranko’s other registers, sometimes darker, sometimes moving, luminous even at times.

His writing style is one that is always fluid and direct, that favors dialog and action, a style that speaks from the heart and often gets under your skin. We find the same brilliance as in authors such as Bukowski, Miller and Fante (father and son). Middle-class America will never have been as classy as under Mark SaFranko’s pen.

"I’d just found out that I’d been dropped by my American publisher. The reason given –- the most common one nowadays -- was that my sales were too weak. The collapse of a huge bookstore chain hadn’t helped my cause since they’d been the biggest customer for my latest novel, which had previously been available only in Europe."

Two short stories stand out in the collection, "The Buck" and "One of the Dead", showing the writer in a new perspective. The contrast between these two stories that follow each other reveals the range of the author’s universe. Let’s hope that this collection will establish long lasting ties between French readers and Mark SaFranko.

Renee C. Fountain reviews Hating Olivia for BookFetish, December 2, 2010.

"SaFranko has created a true piece of literature, one that I think the masters would have been proud of."

John Francisconi reviews Hating Olivia for Poor Sap Publishing, October 29, 2010.

"...[a] great novel...."

Tony O'Neill reviews Hating Olivia for 3:AM Magazine, January 23, 2006.

"Hating Olivia by Mark SaFranko is a very special book, a precious book, and one to be read and re-read until it is dog-eared and tattered."

James Reasoner reviews Loners for blogspot.com, January 8, 2009.

"...this is a very good collection."

Nick Mamatas reviews God Bless America for Livejournal, July 17, 2010.

"God Bless America, a very funny, occasionally shocking, and extremely readable rabbit punch to the back of the head of the American Dream...."

Joseph Ridgwell reviews God Bless America for 3:AM Magazine, 2010.

"...God Bless America...{is} a book so stunningly original that it is certain to become another classic like its predecessors, Hating Olivia and Lounge Lizard."

Jack Goodstein reviews Hating Olivia for blogcritics, November 15, 2010.

"If your literary taste runs to writers like Henry Miller and Charles Bukowski, Celine and Anais Nin, Hating Olivia is a novel you'll like."

Matthew Firth reviews God Bless America for Front & Centre, November, 2010.

"For those of you unfamiliar with SaFranko and his Zajack novels -- wake up and indulge now."

Mike Ferraro reviews Hating Olivia for the New Review at laurahird.com, 2005.

"...SaFranko shows his versatility and skill as a writer by making something supremely difficult look easy as hell."

Jason Rice reviews Hating Olivia for Three Guys One Book, November, 2010.

Review Of God Bless America by Steve Finbow for Bookmunch, September 15, 2010.

"If you enjoyed Henry Miller's Black Spring...Charles Bukowski's Ham On Rye...and Harry Crews' A Childhood:The Biogaphy of a Place, then you will love this book."

Review Of Lounge Lizard by Zsolt Alapi for the New Review, laurahird.com, 2007.

"SaFranko's prose is, as usual, finely crafted and almost effortless in its intensity, drawing the reader into the story from the very first paragraph, and providing an unrelenting ride through the depraved mind of its protagonist, Max Zajack."

Critical article by Sal Difalco for Toro Magazine, March 31, 2009.

"...SaFranko's prose, though blunt and unadorned, is superbly crafted and moves with cinematic velocity toward its bleak (but often comic) conclusions."

Review Of Hating Olivia by Caleb Ross in the Outsider Writers Collective, August 4, 2010

"I know a book is good when I've reached the end to realize that I've written hardly any notes. Hating Olivia escaped with barely half a page."

"If the theme of an author struggling to strike a balance between the compromises of family life and the impulse towards unfettered creativity sounds familiar to readers of Karl Ove Knausgard, it should be noted that SaFranko staked out this territory more than a decade ago with the publication of his breakaway novel, Hating Olivia."

-- Christopher Brownsword, WORD RIOT