Tobias Carroll on Wesley Brown’s Tragic Magic (Ecco, 2000)

When I’m in an unfamiliar bookstore, my attention often gravitates to staff picks and other features unique to that specific shop. Such was the case last year, when I was in Farley’s Bookshop in New Hope, Pennsylvania. One of the first things I saw as I walked in were shelves dedicated to specific indie presses — including one with a number of selections from Concord Free Press. Among the titles I picked up on that visit was Wesley Brown’s novel Tragic Magic.

Brown’s novel had a lot going for it, beginning with admiring quotes from the likes of James Baldwin and Donald Barthelme.  This particular edition had an introduction by Mat Johnson; later, I’d find out that the editor who’d originally worked on the book was none other than Toni Morrison. (A general rule of thumb: if these four people are all champions of a book, it’s safe to assume that it’s worth your time.) It’s little surprise to say that it is indeed a captivating read, one of a handful of genuinely lived-in novels about a musician that comes to mind, and a haunting journey into its protagonist’s life overall. Precisely structured and movingly written, this is a novel that deserves to be more widely read. 

Tobias Carroll is the author of three books, Reel (Rare Bird Books, 2016) and Transitory (Civil Coping Mechanisms). His latest, Political Sign, was released by Bloomsbury as part of the Object Lessons series.