Gift Guide

Harry, Revised: A Novel [NOOK Book]


In this critically acclaimed novel, Harry Rent finds himself young and single and lost after the passing of his wife. Although numbed by his life's unexpected turn, Harry becomes fixated on Molly, an obsidian-haired, twenty-two-year-old waitress. Meanwhile, Harry is forced to fend off Clare, his sister-in-law, who is convinced that Harry is somehow responsible for her sister's untimely death. At once deeply moving and darkly comedic, Harry, Revised is an extraordinary novel about the measure of a man's worth by a...
See more details below
Harry, Revised: A Novel

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$8.49 price
(Save 5%)$8.99 List Price


In this critically acclaimed novel, Harry Rent finds himself young and single and lost after the passing of his wife. Although numbed by his life's unexpected turn, Harry becomes fixated on Molly, an obsidian-haired, twenty-two-year-old waitress. Meanwhile, Harry is forced to fend off Clare, his sister-in-law, who is convinced that Harry is somehow responsible for her sister's untimely death. At once deeply moving and darkly comedic, Harry, Revised is an extraordinary novel about the measure of a man's worth by a wonderful, emerging talent.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This debut novel from popular literary blogger Sarvas focuses on the midlife crisis of recently widowed Harry Rent. Harry maintained a complicated and uneasy relationship with his wife, Anna, who died during a cosmetic surgery procedure. On the day of her funeral, Harry meets Molly, a raven-haired diner waitress and grad student, and is smitten. To win Molly's heart, Harry devises a bizarre plan to transform himself from the sleazy, lying john that he'd become into an honorable and noble gentleman straight from the pages of a Dumas novel, through a series of far from selfless acts aimed toward Molly's old, crotchety co-worker, Lucille. Harry stalks Lucille to ascertain her financial needs and tries to rectify her pitiful situation-all just to get a night of passion with Molly, who already has one deadbeat in her life. Harry is also being followed by the private investigator hired by his sister-in-law, Claire, who holds Harry responsible for sending the beautiful Anna to her early death, but he is too wrapped up in his own game to notice. The novel hinges on Harry's transformation, and though there may be legions of writers spurned by his blog just willing for Sarvas to fail, this is a self-assured, comic and satisfying story. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Sarvas, writer of the highly praised literary blog, The Elegant Variation, has written a brilliantly funny and heart-wrenching first novel about one man's struggle to face the truth. Harry Rent, middle-aged, well-to-do, and prone to comical daydreaming, has recently lost his beautiful and practically perfect wife, Anna. Unable to get in touch with his grief, he becomes involved in the lives of two waitresses, Molly and Lucille, at the Café Retro. He has a crush on the young, hip, and intellectual Molly and tries to impress her by rescuing the lumbering Lucille from her pathetic life of ingrown toenails, unpaid bills, and jailed offspring. But each act of kindness produces its own set of problems for Harry, and he becomes increasingly mired in a life of dishonesty and fantasy. Gradually, his memories of his life with Anna begin rising to the surface, bringing with them both pain and enlightenment. Harry Rent is of the same ilk as Walter Mitty and Rabbit Angstrom: deeply flawed, likable, and hilariously, touchingly memorable. Highly recommended for all fiction collections.
—Joy Humphrey

Kirkus Reviews
In L.A. blogger Sarvas's debut, a guilt-ridden 40-something doctor, stunned by his wife's death during cosmetic surgery, tries to remake himself with the aid of two waitresses, an abridged edition of The Count of Monte Cristo and a podiatrist. The novel opens with Harry Rent fantasizing about a raven-haired hash-slinger-Monte Cristo sandwich slinger-in the diner where he has stopped en route to his wife's funeral. Is he just horny, or unhinged by grief? Both, it turns out. In fact, he's presently unhinged by grief because he was horny: Poor Anna underwent breast augmentation after she learned that her hubby was consorting with prostitutes. Throughout the novel Anna's sister, Claire, hounds her brother-in-law. Harry does feel terrible, in his narcissistic way. At the diner, he tries to impress his server-beloved by playing white knight to her older, uglier, footsore co-worker Lucille. Sarvas visits all sorts of misfortunes on Harry: On a stakeout to discover just what sorts of rich-benefactor-type good deeds Lucille might need, Harry settles outside Lucille's bathroom window. Repulsed by her ample flesh, he's startled into a noisy fall, then is urinated on by an avenging neighbor. As the book progresses and the humiliations mount, Harry gropes toward reclaiming his decency; he wouldn't mind getting the girl too. Sarvas alternates present-day chapters with surprisingly affecting flashbacks from Harry's marriage. The book is fast-paced; there are nice comic touches; and Harry is, finally, rather compelling, selfish and damaged but recognizably human. But despite the author's stylistic resources, the novel can be ham-handed-unconvincing or unfunny in its farce, overly insistent on emotion,awkward in its omniscient narration. Many sentences are overwrought or plain clumsy: "It's a strange, enervating paralysis that suffuses him."Oscillates between earnestness and slapstick, and never seems quite comfortable in either. Agent: Simon Lipskar/Writers House
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608196579
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 1/15/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 830,990
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.68 (d)
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Mark Sarvas is the founder of the popular litblog, "The Elegant Variation," which Forbes and Entertainment Weekly have named as one of the best blogs on the web. This is his first novel. He lives in Los Angeles.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Harry, Revised

A Novel


Copyright © 2008 Mark Sarvas
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59691-462-9

Chapter One

In which our hero orders a sandwich and is late for an appointment

Harry Rent used to fiddle with his wedding ring, now he fiddles with the space it has left behind.

He fiddles by running the tip of his thumb along the underside of his fourth finger. He fiddles with it idling at a traffic light. He fiddles with it when addressing his attractive assistant over the intercom, asking her to send in his next patient. He fiddles with it waiting for change at the grocery store. He fiddles with it both absently and consciously. Consciously, to be certain it's gone. As for why he fiddles absently, he's not yet sure.

Presently, he's fiddling with it at a luncheon counter. He's surprised, but no more than vaguely, by how natural its absence already feels. The rest of his allotment of brainpower is split between despairing over how completely his new gray Italian suit fails to make him resemble the dashing model in the magazine ad-it hangs limply on his body, draped in woolen defeat-and trying to ignore how maddeningly nervous he feels sitting here on this stool, fiddling with a ring that's no longer there, waiting for his waitress to turn her attention to him.

There's an excellent chance that this unplanned lunch stop is going to make him late, and although he minds,he can't quite bring himself to forgo the stop. (Even as he recalls the sepulchral tones of the unctuous Tony Glide advising him that "things at Flavin and Makepeace run like clockwork," so punctuality is strongly advised.) He notes this, it registers that he ought to mind, and he wonders why he doesn't. He does this a lot, this strange circular thinking, Harry the Ouroboros, watching himself watching himself watching, often emerging many minutes later, foggy-headed and thick-tongued as if waking from a deep sleep. Wondering what the hell just happened, knowing only that another little piece of time is lost forever.

And now he's done it again, and all that alerts him to this fact, that brings him back to the moment, is the plume of perfume left behind by his departing waitress, and he realizes that he's once again missed his opening because he's been lost somewhere in Harry-land. He sighs with gathering desperation, the lateness of the hour beginning to weigh on him, and he glances down once more at the menu, on a futile hunt for something to eat. But Café Retro's forced good cheer and whitewashed surfaces meant to evoke the 1950s leave him cold, as do the Chuck Berry selections in the jukebox and the menu consisting largely of deep-fried this and sugarcoated that. Now, as he's debating the relative merits of the Kitchen Sink Chili over the Atomic Sloppy Burger, while carefully trying to negotiate the hot-fudge stains left on the menu by a less fastidious predecessor, some primeval instinct kicks him-nostrils flare slightly, adrenaline flows, hairs stir on the back of his neck, pupils dilate, and some infallible whisper in his ear advises him, Look up, Harry. Lift your head, my man. Your moment is nigh. And the head is lifted because who is Harry to countermand such fundamental, ageless commands?

"Have you decided yet? Or do you need a few minutes?"

This is Molly. Raven-haired and statuesque, she is twenty-two years old, and this gig at Café Retro is one of several ways she is paying her way through graduate school. She is working on her master's degree in postcolonial studies. The title of her thesis is "Patriarchal Modes in Contemporary Fiction: Just Who the Fuck Is the White Man to Decide What Passes for 'Literary'?" and by all accounts the early draft is a rollicking good read. She has a boyfriend, Bruce, who neglects her, and who she has begun to suspect has at least one other girlfriend. The truth is that she's growing tired of Bruce anyway-the working-class-bad-boy-tattoo thing was fun for a few months, but she's sat through enough French films alone now that reassessment is definitely in the cards. She has a strained relationship with her mother, who lives in Seattle, and is only permitted to call her on Wednesday mornings, by design, as Molly has a class to teach at ten a.m. And she is also all too aware that the man sitting before her strangely fiddling with his left hand, this man who may well be old enough to be her father, has a crush on her, but he's not the first, and such crushes have been a tip boon in the past. Harry, of course, knows none of this. All Harry sees is Molly the waitress, standing before him, waiting for his order.

Nevertheless, it is his moment, the one opportunity he has to ask for something and actually have her do it. Power over women has always fascinated Harry, despite-or perhaps because of-its absence from his marriage. His wife, Anna, was much too successful, too poised, for him to have ever had any power over her. In fact, it was an extraordinarily strange turn of events, he often reflected, that led her to choose him out of the field of suitors blackening her front porch like a swarm of death and dung beetles. But, whoops, Harry feels it coming on, another circuitous detour away from the moment at hand, and so he forces himself back to the present, as he determines how to make the most of this moment, how to play it for maximum advantage, how to just this once have a lovely young woman do his bidding.

And, in true Harry-style, he muffs it, a world-class belly flop in front of the Olympic judging committee:

"Boy, it's hard to decide. What do you recommend?"

And it's done, power is ceded, Harry can't grab this moment and run with it, no matter how loudly his desire screams at him. Fiddle, fiddle, fiddle. Patient smile, glancing at her, as though eye contact causes him physical pain.

Molly is both flattered and slightly weirded out to be asked. After all, Café Retro scarcely attracts the kind of clientele that thinks much about what's put in front of them: Tell me, young lady, what brand of peanut butter does the chef use? I'm a Jif man myself or I hope it's genuine Hershey's syrup in the banana split, my dear. Still, unlike Harry, Molly has definite ideas and tastes and no discomfort expressing them, and thus she doesn't hesitate to go directly to her favorite item on the menu.

"The Monte Cristo. Definitely go for the Monte Cristo."

Disaster. Deep-fried and sweet. She couldn't have picked a worse dish if she'd meant to, if she'd had a catalog of Harry's loves and loathes and aimed with deadly, clinical precision at the heart of his culinary Achilles' heel. And now, for a moment, Harry teeters on the verge of exploring the whole "heart of the heel" construction, wondering if that's actually allowed, but the snarling, threatening promise of the Monte Cristo is too strong to permit such reveries. It's inedible, revolting, vile.

"The Monte Cristo it is," he says with what he hopes looks like a suave smile but fears can just as easily be read as murderous constipation.

"Great! If you don't like it, just tell me and I'll get you something else."

"I'm sure it will be great," he says, taking a hatchet to his lifeboat with grim abandon.

She nods, smiling, and is about to depart when she turns back. "Have I seen you in here before?"

Well, no, not in here, not exactly. Harry has passed the front of the restaurant numerous times, paused before the window, gazed in hopelessly, and watched Molly making her rounds. Once he actually worked up the nerve to come in, but sitting in her section demanded more fortitude than the standard model Harry is equipped with, and so he sat in the section that was attended by Lucille, an overweight disciplinarian. Craning his neck helplessly, he withered slowly under Lucille's long, gloomy shadow as he watched Molly gliding effervescently to and fro in her section.

Her question hangs in the air. Harry remembers a sage bit of advice once given to him by another resident during his intern days-if you have to lie, keep it as close to the truth as you can. It's easier that way-less to remember. That said resident was convicted of malpractice and fraud some years later does little to dampen Harry's enthusiasm for his counsel, and so Harry half-nods.

"Passed through once or twice. But I'm not a regular or anything." Tolerable hut just barely.

"Too bad," Molly says with a glint of playfulness. Harry's features adjust themselves to accommodate the rush of red that is flowing into his cheeks, and she calculates I5 percent has already leapt up to 18 and is bearing down relentlessly on 20. Harry focuses, returns the serve, and scores, in his eyes, a point:

"Well, if the Monte Cristo is everything you say, I may just become a regular."

And the horrible tactical mistake is at once apparent to him-he has committed himself to a lifetime of Monte Cristos, of returning time and time again and being expected to order nothing else. After all, isn't that one of the great advantages of being a regular-getting "the usual"? Ahh, here comes Charlie, get him his usual, Frida ... Good to see you again, Alex. The usual? And so on. Sure, an occasional Not tonight, Eddie, I'm feeling footloose-get me a cheeseburger can be tolerated, but after a while, the universe reasserts itself, and Harry's appearance in the doorway will set the bread in the batter and bring powdered sugar off the shelf. But Harry is careful not to let the shadow of defeat move across his face-it isn't that he's particularly philosophical about absorbing slings, arrows, and the rest. Rather, he's too vain to puncture what he perceives to be his best moment thus far, his most suave line of the day, with the appearance of irresolution in any form. And so once again, he studiously ignores where the chips have fallen.

"Excellent," says Molly with a grin. "I'll let the kitchen know that the stakes are high."

The stakes are high indeed, Harry considers, with a nervous look downward at his watch. He experiences a stab of irritation at the realization that time has not, in fact, slowed down on his behalf, and he is now even later than he was moments ago. Worse, the odds are high that this pattern will continue into the immediate future. Events are not moving quickly enough for Harry's taste-a quick tally shows he's exchanged a mere hundred or so words with the Heavenly Molly, a scant return on the twenty minutes he's been sitting at this counter. At this rate, he realizes, his fantasy of a lifetime of sensual bliss together seems several lifetimes away, which represents a few more lifetimes than he has to play with.

But before Harry can unpack all that, as is his wont to do, and delve into this inviting emotional, philosophical, and spiritual conundrum, his attention is caught by the sight of a couple sitting across from each other at one of the booths. He notes them not because they appear as out of place at Café Retro as he does (although they do) or because their whispered conversation, in a backfired attempt at discretion, has taken on a strange, hushed urgency that draws all eyes to it (although it has). What draws Harry's attention is what sits on the tabletop between them, amid salt and pepper shakers, tattered napkins and shriveled straw wrappers that look like discarded snake skins, Sweet'n Low packets and plastic cuplets of creamer, amid various condiments and utensils. Between them sits an urn.

It's clear from the wary expressions on the couple's faces and from the respectful distance that they keep from it that the urn contains human remains.

The sight of the urn elicits a visceral reaction from Harry, an unexpectedly sharp stab of pain in his left side, shot through with nausea and adrenaline as it sets a dark, terrifying thought nudging at him like the head of an unwanted, insistent cat. He draws a steadying breath and-in an unparalleled impersonation of man obviously trying to not eavesdrop-eavesdrops:

"Michael, this is disgusting."

"Would you please keep your voice down, Barb? Everyone is looking at us."

"Everyone is looking at us because there's a goddamned urn on the table!"

Point for Barb, thinks Harry. Michael appears to agree, because he sighs and puts the urn under the table.

"Look," he begins defensively, "do you think I was expecting this? It was a simple will reading, for chrissakes. I figured she'd leave me a few of her notebooks or something like that."

Will reading, Harry thinks. How odd. Not words you hear every day.

"Yeah, well, she appears to have left you a little more than that," says Barbara, bristling.

"It's an errand, Barbara. She asked me to do an errand. That's all. Whatever else you may be thinking about all this is completely off base. First of all, I-"

But now Michael pauses as his eyes fall on Harry's awkward pose of feigned disinterest. With a scowl, he leans in toward Barbara, and now whatever heated sotto voce negotiations may be taking place are lost to Harry's ears. Harry presses his side, where the stab has become a fading throb, and his febrile mind automatically steps in to try to fill in the blanks, occupying the painfully elongated moments leading up to the delivery of his Monte Cristo (which he now realizes, with creeping horror, he is going to be expected to eat).

How much can he suss out from the glimpse he's been afforded? Well, he's pretty certain that Michael and Barbara are married, not especially happily, he suspects, although that may just be circumstantial. (After all, he and Anna appeared quite the happy couple to all those around them.) And it seems equally clear to Harry that the inhabitant of the urn has prevailed upon poor Michael through the agency of a last will and testament to discard or dispose of her in some suitably inconvenient manner over which Barb is now up in arms. The two most obvious questions are (I) who is the "her" in question (Harry pruriently assumes it's an ex of some sort even as he acknowledges it could easily be a friend, a sister, or perhaps dear old Mum) and (2) what, exactly, is the nature of the "errand" she has requested of Michael? Harry realizes that any hope of coming close to the truth on that question would be helped enormously by knowing the answer to the first question, and since neither answer makes itself apparent, his thoughts threaten to return to further contemplation of ham, cheese, and jam. It's a thought Harry finds hard to bear, and so he opts for yet another detour, expertly redirecting his thoughts in well-practiced fashion with a bewildered shake of the head over those who argue so publicly. After all, such public displays would never have occurred to him or to Anna. Even their private displays-save one-were startlingly infrequent and, especially in contrast to Barb's fiery outburst, relatively meek affairs.

The truth is that Harry has simply never been a world-class brawler. Oh, he would have liked to have been a screamer, an arm-waver in the best Burton-Taylor tradition. It's certainly how he imagined himself, a dynamism he fantasized about having that generally eluded him-although eluded suggests a chase being given at the other end, some attempt to nab that sucker, and no such attempts ever materialized. Because really, Anna was pretty together, right? Everyone could see there was not much to rail angrily against there, so he suspects he would have been accused of just making it up for the sake of the performance. (Not that that sort of behavior is beyond him.) Try as he might, he's unable to remember anything about which he ever felt strongly enough to fight with his wife. There's a curious void where the well of memory should be, and Harry suspects there's something abnormal about this. He tries to will himself to remember, forces himself to pick apart the past, but comes up empty, without so much as dust passing through his fingers, unable to figure out what's responsible for this absence. (Or, he frets, perhaps that's just what he's telling himself, even as he resists a darker, sinister whisper, the hectoring voice that says he's not trying hard at all, and that he knows exactly what he'll find if he does. Such are the daily dilemmas of life in Harry-land, this multiplicity of voices, of endless options infinitely contemplated, never acted upon, always deferred.)


Excerpted from Harry, Revised by Mark Sarvas Copyright © 2008 by Mark Sarvas. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)