Muzhduk the Ugli the Fourth is a 300-pound boulder-throwing mountain man from Siberia whose tribal homeland is stolen by an American lawyer out to build a butterfly conservatory for wealthy tourists. In order to restore his people’s land and honor, Muzhduk must travel to Harvard Law School to learn how to throw words instead of boulders. His anarchic adventures span continents, from Siberia to Cambridge to Africa, as he fights fellow students, Tuareg rebels, professors of law, dark magic, bureaucrats, heatstroke, postmodernists, and eventually time and space. A wild existential comedic romp, THE UGLY tells the tale of a flawed and unlikely hero struggling against the machine that shapes the people who govern our world.
Alexander Boldizar was the first post-independence Slovak citizen to graduate with a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. Since then, he has been an art gallery director in Bali, an attorney in San Francisco and Prague, a pseudo-geisha in Japan, a hermit in Tennessee, a paleontologist in the Sahara, a porter in the High Arctic, a police-abuse watchdog in New York City, an editor and art critic in Jakarta and Singapore, and a consultant on Wall Street. His writing has won the PEN/Nob Hill prize and was the Breadloaf nominee for Best New American Voices. Boldizar currently lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada, where his hobbies include throwing boulders and choking people while wearing pajamas, for which he won a gold medal at the Pan American Championships and a bronze at the World Masters Championships of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. For several years, an online Korean dictionary had him listed as its entry for “ugly.”
The Ugly News
News, awards, etc.
"Best Book of 2016" Overall Grand Prize winner
The Ugly won the Overall Grand Prize for best book of 2016 across all genres at the CAC17 authors conference in Bellingham, WA, March 31 - April 2nd, 2017. The contest excluded the "Big 5" publishers but included thousands of independent and small press entries from 33 countries. Yay!
Somerset Prize winner
The Ugly won the 2016 Somerset Prize for "best literary and contemporary fiction," as well as its "satire" category, at CAC17.
"Book of the Year" Indies 2016 double finalist (literary and humor)
The Ugly was named a 2016 Indies "Book of the Year" Finalist in two categories: literary fiction and humor. Winners will be announced at the American Library Association's annual conference in Chicago on June 24, 2017.
Slovak Spectrum TV: "...strangest, craziest, funniest..."
Slovak Spectrum TV called The Ugly "One of the strangest, craziest, funniest, most interesting and most different novels anyone has ever put out."
They interviewed me about The Ugly, and included some highlights of the reading at Black Squirrel Books in Ottawa. The piece on The Ugly starts at 16:25, though the English portion starts at 16:50, and goes until 24:50.
Clash Media: "This decade's A Confederacy of Dunces"
"The Ugly is one of my favorite current novels. It is hilarious, intelligent, challenging, and entertaining. I got to interview the author Alexander Boldizar. A man as interesting as his novel."
Heavy Feather: "Oddly unforgettable debut novel"
"Praise heaped towards The Ugly implies—with its absurdist tendencies, severe distrust of institutions (government; language; academics; politics; law), and attempts at humor (some more successful than others)—a postmodern and distorted Catch-22. But there are too many ideas packed here for such a casual, dismissive characterization."
Softcover: "ambitious, deep, hilarious."
"The Ugly is an ambitious, deep, hilarious work that exists somewhere between the real and the absurd. Boldizar is able to balance humour and deep meaning to comment on law, thought, and how we construct meaning. The story follows Muzhduk, a Siberian mountain man who travels to Harvard with the goal of defending his tribal homeland with the law.
"I spoke with Alexander about The Ugly, the power of the absurd, and the the relationship between reason, empathy, and compassion."
If books had friends, this would be a great party.
After several weeks of sitting between Joseph Heller's Catch-22 and Kurt Vonnegut's Mother Night, Chuck Palahniuk knocked Kurt down, but The Ugly stayed where it was. (Nobody beats Catch-22.) Thank you to all fans of dark humor and satire!
Buffalo News: "Like a boisterous Borges..."
"Like a boisterous Borges ignoring the delete key or an angry Celine forced to write in a language he hates, Alexander Boldizar plays with our minds by mixing fact with fiction in “The Ugly”... Borrowing from every fabulist he knows he turns Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” on its head. Kurtz’s “horror” has become Boldizar’s “Ugly”... It’s as if the “Harvard Lampoon” turned on itself...Kurtz has returned from the jungle and the horror is our institutions."
—William L. Morris, Primetime Emmy-nominated writer (NYPD Blue) and book reviewer for The Buffalo News
Best Books of 2016: Best Fiction
The Ugly was named one of the “Best Books of 2016: Best Fiction” by Entropy Magazine. Entropy, called the “eternal champion of small press literary books” by Small Press Distribution, includes small press titles along with the big houses.
Best Fiction Books of 2016
The Ugly was included in Book Scrolling's year-end list of the best books of 2016.
Kirkus Reviews: "Consistently hilarious"
Kirkus Reviews writes, “It is amusing to watch a man who’s accustomed to settling disputes physically engage in a 'word-throwing battle.' The novel’s humor carries into its occasional surreal moments...consistently hilarious...[The Ugly is] a bizarre but delightful sendup of illogical arguments."
Foreword Reviews: "The Ugly is a globe-trotting tour de force," editor's pick, 5 stars.
Foreword Reviews writes, “Comedically absurd but also introspective, The Ugly challenges dogmatic clinging to the letter of the law...a globe-trotting tour de force that examines the complex relationship between words and actions.” [5 stars, editor's pick.]
Publisher's Weekly: "A surprising treat"
Publisher's Weekly writes that “It's possible that only law students or lawyers will fully appreciate Boldizar's send-up of Ivy League legal education, but even those with only a passing familiarity will nevertheless appreciate his muscular critique of conflicts both intellectual and physical. A surprising treat.”
Poets & Writers: "Intelligent and emotional, existential and comedic"
Poets & Writers says, "With a hero poised to go down in literary history, The Ugly tells the story of a 300-pound Siberian man who goes to Harvard Law School to try to save his homeland from an American lawyer out to turn it into a tourist trap. Intelligent and emotional, existential and comedic, the satirical novel takes on the irrational trappings of our supposedly rational world."
Harvard Law Today: "Breaks the mold."
The Harvard Law Bulletin and Harvard Law Today say The Ugly "breaks the mold" on books set in law school.
#1 in Goodreads September Releases
The Ugly was voted #1 in Goodreads' list of September 2016 Releases.
#1 on Amazon
On Amazon.ca, the Ugly has reached
- #1 in World Literature, both bestsellers and new releases
- #1 in Mythology, both bestsellers and new releases
On Amazon.com, it has reached
- #1 in Eastern European Literature, both bestsellers and new releases
- #1 in Lawyers & Criminals Humor, new releases
- #3 in Dark Humor, new releases
An "SPD recommends" book
Small Press Distribution, which represents 400 smaller publishers, chose The Ugly as one of its recommended books.
Above the Law: "...laugh-out-loud funny"
Above the Law is the American Bar Association's top news website for lawyers based on ABA Blawg 100 list. They gave The Ugly a fantastic review:
"The Ugly is often laugh-out-loud funny...I definitely recommend [it] for fans of insightful law school satire. But if you prefer more garden-variety depictions of life as a 1L, the novel is definitely not for you. And if (for some reason) you are a fan of Senator Ted Cruz, you will definitely not enjoy The Ugly."
Kanadsky Slovak reviews The Ugly
Kanadsky Slovak, founded in 1942, is North America's only weekly Slovak newspaper. They gave The Ugly a very kind review, calling it "a great book."
(Note: The article was on pages 8 and 13 -- I consolidated the images, since it's only available as a PDF or paper copy, not digital).
North Shore News feature
The North Shore News wrote a feature article on The Ugly (Note: the headline refers to an early version; the novel is 372 pages, not 800.)
Small Press Distribution: Bestseller
The Ugly was a Small Press Distribution bestseller in the July & August 2016 category thanks to presales (launch was September 7, 2016).
Largehearted Boy Book Notes calls The Ugly "A bold and hilarious satire."
Largehearted Boy, a literature and music website that explores that spot in the Venn diagram where the two arts meet, writes that "The Ugly is a bold and hilarious satire, a stunning debut."
In the book notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book. Here's the music playlist for The Ugly.
Writer's Bone interview
I love a great writer bio. Here’s Alexander Boldizar’s:
He was the first Slovak citizen to graduate with a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Since then, he has been an art gallery director in Indonesia, an attorney in California and Prague, a pseudo-geisha in Japan, a hermit in Tennessee, a paleontologist in the Sahara, a porter in the High Arctic, a police-abuse watchdog in New York City, and an editor of the first pan-Asian art magazine.
Turns out that his debut novel, The Ugly, is just as entertaining (it comes out September 7, 2016). Boldizar talked to me recently about how he became a storyteller, his publishing journey, and what inspired The Ugly...
Net Galley "featured author"
NetGalley chose The Ugly for its "Featured Debut Author" theme.
#AmReading selects The Ugly for September
The Ugly was chosen by #AmReading as a September "book to read."
Instructables: How to throw a boulder
Detailed step-by-step instructions on how to throw a boulder.
Awards & Distinctions
- Best Book of 2016: overall Grand Prize winner, CAC17
- Somerset Prize for best "literary and contemporary fiction" of 2016
- 2016 Indies Book of the Year double finalist (literary & humor), winner TBD
- Best Books of 2016: Best Fiction, Entropy Magazine
- Best Fiction Books of 2016 (A Year End List), Book Scrolling
- #1 on Goodreads’ New Releases
- #1 on Amazon in World Literature
- #1 in Eastern European Literature
- #1 in Mythology
- #3 in Dark Humor
- Bread Loaf representative to Best New American Voices anthology (first chapter)
- PEN/Nob Hill Prize Winner (for Pulling Shadows)
Book trailer, boulder-throwing instructional and more.
Book trailer -- Siberian version
The Ugly book trailer, with music by AlashEnsemble.
Instructional: How to throw a boulder
These boulder-throwing techniques were developed by generations of 300-pound mountain men in the Verkhoyansk Range in northeast Siberia. The techniques comply with the rules of the Dull-Boulder Throw, an annual contest by which the chief's "subjective eye" is determined. For a full Instructables video and explanation, click on the orange button below.
Book trailer -- original version
The Ugly book trailer, with music by Erika Fitzpatrick.