Riding With the Magi
A joke that Thomas Alva Edison played on reporters was to claim he was inventing a machine to talk with the dead. By turns, this charming—and disarming—novel depicts characters trying to do just that. Thomas Russell brilliantly links the historic summertime trans-America automobile tours of Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and a dying Thomas Edison with a wistful son’s recollection of a father who penned best-selling children’s novels. Trouble is that while alive, Dad typed in the attic and paid a good deal more attention to his imaginary character Ned Jumper than he did to his real son. So with Dad’s death all that’s left for his son is to imagine himself as Ned Jumper’s mysterious and sheltered brother; just as Edison, Ford and Firestone imagine a recently demised friend as still peeping from their car windows. With amazing whimsy and ingenuity, Riding With the Magi explores the challenge of failed families, lost friends, past dreams, male-female relations—and mortality.
ISBN, trade paper: 1-931982-42-2, $15.95 Sale $8.00
ISBN, library edition: 1-931982-41-4, $27.00 Sale $13.50
Thomas Russell directs the writing program at the University of Memphis, where he holds a Dunavant Professorship. His poetry and fiction have been published in magazines including The Georgia Review, The Massachusettes Review, Poetry, and The American Poetry Review. He has been awarded a PEN Syndicated Fiction Prize and a Pushcart Prize and has received fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Carnegie Foundation.
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the world has been boiled down to five or six blocks—the size that just
fits a boy—and it is bordered by the emblematic features of a middle time
(cat’s eyes and steelies, ice cream wagons, canasta cards clothes-pinned
against bike spokes, glow-in-the-dark yo-yos, double-knit sport shirts, boredom,
restlessness), by which I mean that the concentrated world seems so weighted
that it is tipping a little to one side at the midpoint of the century. And yet
everything is poised to disappear.