A Congress of Wonders
Set around World War II, the three hilarious stories in the collection are linked by the presence of one Philander Cosmo Rexroat, B.S., M.S., "Pee Aitch Dee", resurrected here from McClanahan's bestselling book The Natural Man, where he appeared as "the Cecil B. De Mille of Sex Hygiene Entertainment". In these stories, Rexroat turns up in several new guises: preacher, sideshow spieler, and bogus physician. "Juanita and the Frog Prince" tells of a pregnant jailhouse laundress whose ill fate is transformed by a magical encounter with Luther "Two-Nose" Jukes, an inmate awaiting trial for murder. The title story walks us down the carnival midway and a step beyond, as the ubiquitous Rexroat, his consort Wanda Pearl, and a clairvoyant hermaphrodite - "It's that old morphadyke again!" - provide the way station for a boy's journey into the grown-up world of love, loss, and hocus-pocus. "Finch's Song", the tale of Needmore's most beleaguered denizen, a school bus driver endlessly tormented by his ruthless half brother, is both a love story and a story of retribution.
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