It’s been one busy week, but Friday is finally here! If you’re a regular at this blog, you’ll remember I likened my January visit to Disney World to the Seventh Circle of Hell. John Vance is here to share his review of Fools in the Magic Kingdom, a satirical take on Disney World (sounds like something I could get behind), and to tell us about his newest release, Tick Cooper.
Recently, I’ve been fortunate to read wonderful indie novels by Tracy Ball, Kristen Jackson, and John Hazen, all of whom I highly recommend. Most recently, however, I finished a splendid indie satire, Fools in the Magic Kingdom by Michael Hartnett. As a Disney aficionado I couldn’t resist grabbing this one—and I absolutely loved it. First, Hartnett has a refreshing and impressive cleverness with language–shaping his phrases and dialogue with a particularly deft hand. Sections are utterly hilarious as we follow his characters through the Magic Kingdom and the World Showcase in Epcot. But unlike the lines at Disney World, everything flows at a brisk pace through the novel’s pages. In addition, Hartnett’s characters are as whimsical as Peter Pan, disturbing as Maleficent, amusing as Smee, sassy as Sebastian, unstable as Tinker Bell, intelligent as Mulan, violent as Scar, and illusive as Jack Sparrow. Readers who enjoy off-kilter characters who shake us up and push us around will delight in this book.
But it would be wrong to judge this novel as only a vivacious satirical romp through the Magic Kingdom, for in the very best literary satire—from Juvenal through Swift to Vonnegut–important and compelling issues are at the heart of the frivolity and outlandishness. Here we find ourselves asking important questions about intolerance, nostalgia, traditions, and control. What in life can we find “magical” and how necessary is it to experience that magic? Other significant matters and themes in the book are depravity, vanity, expectation, disappointment, disillusionment, and fear of change. In brief, we need more satirists with the skill and imagination of Michael Hartnett.
As for me, I’ve wanted to write a young person’s book that would appeal to reader’s of all ages. Tick Cooper is my attempt to do just that. Tick is a twelve year old Ohio boy who’s about to accompany his Uncle Ned down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. It’s the autumn of 1860, right before the election that will send Abraham Lincoln to the White House. With his mother deceased and his father having deserted him for the chance of gold in California, Tick has been most fortunate to receive the care and love of his father’s older brother and his wife—Aunt Clara. Although she has recently passed away, she and Uncle Ned have educated the boy about living a good and proper life. But Tick hasn’t had much of a chance to put what he’s learned into practice—nor to face the moral challenges every young person will face as he or she grows up. But the river journey will provide plenty of those experiences and tests of character. Yet reaching New Orleans does not conclude Tick’s lessons and challenges, for there he witnesses a slave auction, and on the block is a thirteen-year-old freed black girl named Clarissa, whom Tick had briefly met in Ohio. Now Tick faces his most significant challenge. Can he help get Clarissa back to Ohio all the way from New Orleans?
Although set in the nineteenth century, the novel touches on a number of issues affecting young males and females today—and it does not repeat moments from Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, its obvious literary inspiration (in fact, the historical Sam Clemens makes an appearance in the book). It’s a novel full of fun and adventure—and I’m very confident the reader will love Tick. Finally, I found it both delightful and therapeutic writing from the perspective of a twelve year old boy. (Available at www.amazon.com)
John Vance is a former professor of English at the University of Georgia. Active in the theater—as an actor, director, producer, and playwright—he had thirty-five of his plays staged. Now John has turned his creative energies toward fiction and has twelve indie novels published.
Facebook Author’s Page: https://www.facebook.com/authorjohnvance/