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Millroy the Magician
     

Millroy the Magician

by Paul Theroux, Oksana Kushner (Designed by)
 

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Fourteen-year-old Jilly Farina was enthralled with Millroy the Magician at the Barnstable County Fair. After all, he once turned a girl from the audience into a glass of milk and drank her, But when Jilly stepped into the wickerwork coffin during a performance, she had no idea he would transform her dreary life into something truly magical, and a touch bizarre.

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Overview

Fourteen-year-old Jilly Farina was enthralled with Millroy the Magician at the Barnstable County Fair. After all, he once turned a girl from the audience into a glass of milk and drank her, But when Jilly stepped into the wickerwork coffin during a performance, she had no idea he would transform her dreary life into something truly magical, and a touch bizarre.

For Millroy was no ordinary magician. He could smell the future, and Jilly was going to be part of it. Yet not even Millroy could foresee how far determination and a dream could take him, as he and his new young assistant hit the road -and the airwaves — to save America's unhealthy appetite and floundering soul....

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
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
School Library Journal
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
Donna Seaman
When did Theroux become a fabulist? Last we heard, he was island-hopping across the Pacific in "The Happy Isles of Oceania" , and before that he served us kinky sex in his novel "Chicago Loop". Now it's all health and magic. His wizard Millroy--a hero if ever there was one--is spectacular. Tall, strong, shiny-domed, big-nosed, and fanatic, he has found truth and power in eating whole foods, particularly those mentioned in the Bible. Yes, Millroy believes that regularity is next to spirituality. He eschews meat and instead eats figs, honeycomb, beans, barley, and whole-grain Ezekiel bread. People who are fat and weak, boozers and smokers, well actually, most adults, horrify Millroy, but he's a natural crowd-pleaser and patiently works his dazzling magic at county fairs until he spots tiny Jilly Farina, the sweet-natured narrator of this amazing tale, in the audience. Jilly's 14 but as skinny as a 12-year-old boy, and her absolute innocence and unhappiness tug at Millroy's heart. He takes her under his wing, disguises her as his son (which leads to some confusion), and, thriving on her presence, transforms himself into a national celebrity. He shares his dietary wisdom and performs magic on his TV show, opens a controversial chain of diners, and gets himself into a host of predictable predicaments. This all evolves into an irresistible, adroit, often hilarious, and strangely romantic tale about the fate of a genuine prophet in the age of fast-food cynicism and the enduring mystery and power of love.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780517168745
Publisher:
Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date:
04/24/1996
Pages:
437

Meet the Author

PAUL THEROUX is the author of many highly acclaimed books. His novels include The Lower River and The Mosquito Coast, and his renowned travel books include Ghost Train to the Eastern Star and Dark Star Safari . He lives in Hawaii and on Cape Cod.

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