The Magician’s Study


Tobias Seamon creates a crippled and volatile Houdini-like character in Robert “The Great” Rouncival, whose tumultuous life is recounted through the lively tales of a docent guiding tourists through the magician’s tricked-up and exotically adorned home.

A circus poster serves as a touch point for the magician’s early years working with carnies and con men. Bloodied letters from the front bear witness to the tragedy of a brother killed in the Great War. The Bowery stage from Rouncival’s first back-alley show is reconstructed in its entirety, a shrine both to simpler times and to the Jazz Age actress whose charms spurred him to greater skill. A smaller room, limned with green flames and hung with human skulls, gives witness to the darker years of the magician’s short life. The narrator exudes ingenuous wonder at Rouncival’s many tricks–whether levitating salt shakers or making entire houses disappear–so much so that the revelation of his identity comes as no surprise. It is through those starry eyes that we relive the boozy, opium-filled days of this physically and emotionally wounded man, and share in the relief that at the end of his life, the crusty wizard found a measure of peace.

A swift-moving and unexpectedly charming story, The Magician’s Study is a worthy debut for this Pushcart-prize nominated poet and essayist.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award






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