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Millroy the Magician


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YA-A strange, often funny, and always provocative story about a country-fair magician who becomes a cult leader. During an awe-inspiring performance, Millroy the Magician locks eyes with skinny 14-year-old Jilly Farina (the narrator) and asks her to stay with him. Jilly is very innocent and for the first time in her forlorn little life she feels safe and secure in his Airstream trailer on the Barnstable campgrounds. Millroy claims that his formidable power comes from his command over nine bodily functions and because he only eats vegetarian foods mentioned in the Bible. Fueled by Jilly's constancy, he seeks to spread his message first through children's television (where he attracts an enormous following) and then through a chain of restaurants (where he attracts the attention of the IRS and other government agencies and organized religious groups). Through all of this, Jilly questions her uneasy relationship with a man who is quite possibly more than human but still full of flaws. This controversial novel full of religion, magic, and wisdom will appeal to thoughtful older teens.-Susan R. Farber, Chappaqua Public Library, NY

The baggy latest from Theroux ( Chicago Loop ) is both satire and love story, by turns bilious, brutal, gentle and grotesque. Millroy is indeed a magician, but one whose ambitions reach far beyond the crowd-pleasing tricks he performs in the tatty fairground tent where we first meet him. He intends to conjure up fame, fortune and a new identity somewhere between Jimmy Swaggart and the Frugal Gourmet as he promotes a new digestive religion for middle America based on healthy, biblically inspired and, above all, fiber-filled eating. Like John Harvey Kellogg in T. Coraghessan Boyle's recent The Road to Wellville , Millroy plans a literal purging of America, and in a barnstorming transcontinental roadshow, related by his accomplice and amanuensis, teenage runaway Jilly Farina, Millroy sets about spreading the word to the constipated faithful. In his phantasmagoria, Theroux gives us America as carnival with the prayer meetings, the sideshow and the superstar. By the end, ironically, Millroy suffers from a surfeit: unlike the magician, Theroux rejects restraint of any kind, and his satire of America's culture of consumption rambles beyond most readers' appetites. But even if the novel is overstuffed, its larger-than-life hero is a notable new recruit to Theroux's growing gallery of memorable obsessives . Author tour. (Jan.)

Part fantasy and part realistic social commentary, this unusual tale by the author of The Mosquito Coast ( LJ 2/1/82) links Jilly Farina, a teenaged runaway, with a mysterious magician named Millroy. After meeting at a county fair, the two join forces to proclaim Millroy's gospel of good nutrition. Their first venue is a children's television show; Millroy routs his opponents with feats of prestidigitation, but the program eventually gets canceled because of his candid remarks about gaining control of bodily functions. After he opens a chain of vegetarian diners and becomes famous throughout the country, all those jealous of or threatened by his success join forces to destroy him. Millroy foils their schemes and leads Jilly to insight, power, and love. Although slow-moving at first, Theroux's novel is funny, moving, and remarkably inventive. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/93.-- Albert E. Wilhelm, Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville

"Picaresque ... Enchanting ... Theroux is a gifted and versatile tale spinner." -- Time "Amazing ... (A) Startlingly Original Tale Of Pure Magic...that amuses, unnerves, and captivates the reader in a spell of bewilderment, danger, and awe...The reader (will) be enthralled." -- The Boston Sunday Herald "Magical ... (A) funny, dark satire of America's obsessions." -- The New York Times Book Review

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