Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wesley Stace's top 10 ventriloquism books

Wesley Stace, a celebrated musician and songwriter who performs under the name John Wesley Harding, is the author of two novels, Misfortune and the recently-released by George (which appeared at the Page 69 Test).

About by George, from the publisher:
In the illustrious history of the theatrical Fishers, there are two Georges. One is a peculiar but endearing 11-year-old, raised in the seedy world of `70s boarding houses and backstages, now packed off to school for the first time; the other, a garrulous ventriloquist's dummy who belonged to George's grandfather, a favorite traveling act of the British troops in World War II. The two Georges know nothing of each other — until events conspire to unite them in a search to uncover the family's deepest secrets.

While the dummy lays dusty, silent, and abandoned, his young namesake sets out to learn about his dead grandfather's past as a world-famous ventriloquist, his magical powers, and their family's curious history. Weaving the boy's tale and the puppet's 'memoirs,' by George unveils the fascinating Fisher family — its weak men, its dominant women, its disgruntled boys, and its shocking and dramatic secrets. At once bitingly funny and exquisitely tender, Stace's novel is the unforgettable journey of two young boys separated by years but driven by the same desires: to find a voice, and to be loved.

Stace has now selected a "top 10 ventriloquism books" list for the Guardian, including:
Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism by Steven Connor

Ventriloquism? The image that springs to mind is a dummy on a man's knee. But Dumbstruck, a serious work of scholarship, neatly written and provocatively argued, shows us the murky history of the dissociated or thrown voice, from The Oracle of Delphi, past the Bible's Witch of Endor, right up to trashy Anthony Hopkins vehicle, Magic. Despite the iconic cover photo of Michael Redgrave and wooden friend from Dead of Night, you'll find little on the dummy: the real story of ventriloquism is played out by the time Archie Andrews turns up.
Check out the novel on Stace's list that made him "wonder why there wasn't a novel where ventriloquism spoke for itself."

Read an excerpt from by George and more about the novel at Wesley Stace's website and his MySpace page.

The Page 69 Test: by George.

--Marshal Zeringue