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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 13, 2004

Curtis White Reads From New Novel Jan. 26 On WSUI

Fiction writer and social critic Curtis White will read from his new novel, "America's Magic Mountain," at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26, on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910.

The reading, hosted by Julie Englander, will be a free event at the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the Internet at

White's new novel is patterned after Thomas Mann's "The Magic Mountain," but in this update Americans converse in Betty Ford clinics instead of Tuberculosis sanitariums, and the mountains are old coal slag heaps in Illinois.

White says, "'America's Magic Mountain' is about a constellation of interests. It's certainly about Thomas Mann's novel 'The Magic Mountain,' but it is more importantly about alcoholism as a family system. It's about learning to be part of a toxic environment. This is true, in our culture, in a lot of ways. What's saddest, of course, is to see children learn how to be part of these systems. In its own hyperbolic and surreal way, my novel tries to account for that process."

A review in the Village Voice asserted, "Mann maniacs will find the book a pleasing jigsaw of retooled minutiae. . . For readers unacquainted with Mann or White, 'America's Magic Mountain' is a thin but humorous dissection of the American education system, liberal banality and so-called 'boutique diseases,' and unlike the 700-plus-page 1924 masterpiece, this speedy Palahniukian narrative will keep even the attention-deprived in the zone. How very American!"

A New York Times review observed, "There are surprising surrealist touches sprinkled throughout, and his whimsical flourishes are delightfully fresh."

Illinois State University faculty member Curtis White's books include "Monstrous Possibility: An Invitation to Literary Politics," the story collection "Metaphysics in the Midwest," and the novels "Requiem" and "Memories of My Father Watching TV."

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

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