The Made-Up Man

Joseph Scapellato

Existential noir meets absurd comedy when a young man reluctantly enlists as source material for an art project

Stanley had known it was a mistake to accept his uncle Lech’s offer to apartment-sit in Prague—he’d known it was one of Lech’s proposals, a thinly veiled setup for some invasive, potentially dangerous performance art project. But whatever Lech had planned for Stanley, it would get him to Prague and maybe offer a chance to make things right with T after his failed attempt to propose.

Stanley can take it. He can ignore their hijinks, resist being drafted into their evolving, darkening script. As the operation unfolds it becomes clear there’s more to this performance than he expected; they know more about Stanley’s state of mind than he knows himself. He may be able to step over chalk outlines in the hallway, may be able to turn away from the women acting as his mother or the men performing as his father, but when a man made up to look like Stanley begins to play out his most devastating memory, he won’t be able to stand outside this imitation of his life any longer.

Immediately and wholly immersive, Joseph Scapellato’s debut novel, The Made-Up Man, is a hilarious examination of art’s role in self-knowledge, a sinister send-up of self-deception, and a big-hearted investigation into the cast of characters necessary to help us finally meet ourselves.

Praise for The Made-Up Man

“This bold, hilarious, and playfully absurd novel asks the biggest questions out there, but does it with such shrewd grace and charming lightness that you won’t feel the existential weight until it’s already crashed down upon your head. A perfect amalgamation of the tragicomic and the potentially uplifting, Joseph Scapellato’s writing is in the imaginative vein of Jesse Ball and Charlie Kaufman, but with a tenderhearted spirit that is uniquely his own.”
—Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine

“This absurdist comedy/noir/coming-of-age novel follows Stanley after he agrees to participate in his Uncle Lech’s performance art project in Prague . . . Merging the ludicrous and the melancholic, the odd premise provides many laugh-out-loud moments and some curious insights and enables Stanley to explore and understand why he performs the same role each and every day.”
—Alexander Moran, Booklist

Joseph Scapellato’s debut story collection, Big Lonesome, was published in 2017. He earned his MFA in fiction at New Mexico State University and has been published in Kenyon Review Online, Gulf Coast, Post Road Magazine, PANK, UNSAID, and other literary magazines. His work has been anthologized in Forty Stories, Gigantic Worlds: An Anthology of Science Flash Fiction, and The Best Innovative Writing. Scapellato is an assistant professor of English in the creative writing program at Bucknell University. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, with his wife, daughter, and dog.