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Release: Feb. 13, 2002

Workshop graduate Udall reads at Prairie Lights March 1

Brady Udall, a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, will read from his work at 8 p.m. Friday, March 1 in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. The free reading will be broadcast on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series, originating on UI radio station WSUI, AM 910.

Udall, who teaches at Southern Illinois University, is the author of the 1997 short-story collection "Letting Loose the Hounds" and, most recently, the novel "The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint," published last year. At the UI he was a James Michener Fellow, and his work has won the Playboy fiction contest and has been published in GQ, Story, the Paris Review and other periodicals.

"The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint" has drawn favorable comparisons to John Irving with its story of the heartbreaks and triumphs of a half-Apache orphan. He's a seven-year-old on an Arizona reservation when the mailman's jeep accidentally runs over his head. Shunted from the hospital to a school for delinquents to a Mormon foster family, comedy, pain and trouble accompany Edgar through a string of larger-than-life experiences.

Calling the book a "marvelous first novel," the critic of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "'The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint' is an adept mix of humor and pathos. Udall's prose strikes a perfect balance, sometimes minimalist, sometimes lush. The novel revolves around an odd central character who, if written by a writer of less talent, would have strained credulity but with Udall as a muse is achingly human. Edgar Mint is nobody's Everyman, but he is the hope and the pain of a child looking for, and eventually finding, a home."

Malcolm Jones wrote for Newsweek, "Udall persuades us to care for Edgar, to root for him to survive, and he is so successful that by the end of the story the only unbelievable thing is that Edgar Mint is nothing but a figment of Brady Udall's imagination. That's the real miracle here."

And Tony Earley, the author of "Jim the Boy," said, "The whole blessed/bloody roil of the human condition courses through 'The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint.' If Dickens had been born in Arizona, he might have written a book like this."

Udall, who grew up in northern Arizona, identifies two inspirations for his novel: "One was this Native American boarding school on the Fort Apache Reservation. When I was a kid we used to

play basketball and football games against them. The school was actually the original Fort Apache and used many of the original buildings. The playground was the old parade grounds. The principal's house used to be the General's quarters. It's an amazing place, full of history and ghosts, and I knew I would write about it one day.

"The second part of the equation was a story my wife told me about an ex-boyfriend of hers. This guy, when he was a kid, was run over by a mailman. He was so badly hurt that he was presumed dead. The mailman disappeared, believing he'd killed this little boy. The ex-boyfriend told my wife that the one thing he would like to do in this life is find that mailman and tell him he's okay. Well, I knew I would write about that, too, no doubt about it. So I threw together an Indian boarding school and a story about a kid getting run over by a mailman and what I got is a novel. It worked out nicely."

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