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Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  1,245 Ratings  ·  209 Reviews
Henry Walker was once a world-class magician, performing to sold-out shows in New York. But now he has been reduced to joining Musgrove's Chinese Circus (which at no point in its tour of the deep South has ever included a single Chinese person) as the shambling Negro Magician, whose dark black skin and electric green eyes bewitch most audiences. But one balmy Mississippi n ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 8th 2008 by Anchor (first published 2007)
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Jul 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is probably more like a 3.5 star book for me, but the writing was very good and the story interesting enough to round it up rather than down.

On it's surface, this is the story of Henry Walker (view spoiler) Henry is a study in con
Jul 24, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Haunting, that's the word that's been used to describe this story. It does stay with you. Its beautiful and so sad. I loved the writing style, the way the story is told from multiple angles, and the little sprinkles of the supernatural throughout. I really wanted to believe the magic, even when I knew better.
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Определено изненадваща книга.
Започнах я с намерението да търся загубени магьосници... и всъщност точно това получих, но магьосникът бе изгубен по друг, различен начин.
Изгубен в самия себе си.
Dec 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Big Fish fans
i'm still reading this, but i am always a sucker for a tale about bargaining with the devil - not because i strike such bargains myself, mind you. I have not figured out what really happened yet, and I really want to figure out what the heck happened to Henry's sister. Wallace loves to tell his tale from mulitple points of view - so each colorful character gets to tell his or her side of Henry's story through their own lens. Each version is fascinating in its own way - there are some great twist ...more
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love anything to do with magic and magicians, but it is seldom one comes across a book about magic that is actually magical. This is such a book. A story so full of wonder, so beautiful and sad and moving, so entertaining and so completely awesome. The main protagonist, Henry Walker, is essentially a tragic figure, there is not enough love in his life and much too much death, he struggles to fit in in the world, whether his skin is black or white. His magic is either too good or not good enoug ...more
Jul 22, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the growing genre of circus-set literature, "Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician" beats "Water For Elephants," at least where sophistication of writing is concerned. Wallace's characters are more evocatively drawn than Gruen's, and their destinies more rattling. Gruen supplies a page-turner; Wallace, a rumination that serves to illuminate the darkness inherent in every brightly lit carnival.
Yordanka Kurdova
Даниел Уолъс се е справил майсторски със сюжета. Напомняше ми на "Престиж", но намя да омаловажава тази творба, като я сравнявам. Изказът на Уолъс е богат, а светът, в който те пренася е изпълнен с много разкази и един Черен магьосник, който беше бял.
Sep 23, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: david blaine, david axelrod, david plouffe
This is possibly the first time that national mood has significantly affected my ability to enjoy a book. I finished it, but kept returning to the beginning scenes, where an elderly Black magician repeatedly fails in front of a white audience that has paid to see him do just that. It has the effect of soothing their racial anxieties and signaling that the social upheaval around them has left their position undisturbed. An admittedly long excerpt: "A black man with green eyes- a Negro- and this, ...more
Cara Olsen
Apr 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For me, this was neither a clean nor a tidy book. The narrative is filled with many sudden twists and turns, and quite frankly, I fell off a few cliffs along the way. Sure, there are a few things and minor details I would have loved to have seen elucidated by the end. I would have appreciated receiving answers to questions I have about what really happened -- just who WAS he, then? But there is something Bigger at hand here, and I, gratefully, was able to accept it.
For those who demand a coheren
Mar 14, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Anybody who has read the book or seen the enjoyable movie "Big Fish" knows that this author writes of Southern tinged fantasy. Though the title is regrettable the truth is that in the 40s and 50s South Black people were called Negroes. So I forgave him (a White author) that. I even forgave the fact that the Negro in the title was not actually a Negro but a White man who used his ability to become a Negro to his advantage. And as is repeatedly pointed out, this is an insane strategy in 1950's Ala ...more
Jan 13, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Dall'autore del grandioso "Big Fish", ecco arrivare da parte di Daniel Wallace un altro racconto che parte dal mondo dei circhi di provincia e dei "freaks" intravisti nel già citato "Big Fish". "Il Circo Del Diavolo", pessimo titolo italiano e completamente diverso dal più sobrio originale, è la storia di Henry Walker, un mago di media caratura con alle spalle grossi problemi familiari (padre alcolizzato, madre morta e la sorella Hannah scomparsa), e che si crea come unica ragione di vita la mor ...more
Paul Eckert
Jan 04, 2010 rated it liked it
I bought this book because I liked the movie Big Fish, and the premise seemed intriguing.

I heard a quote once that said something like, "Every author has one story to tell", the implication being that an author often tells the same story over and over. This seems to be the case with Daniel Wallace.

The themes of Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician are very similar to Big Fish. Again we are reminded that the way someone tells a story can be closer to the truth than a mere recounting of facts. I
Nov 14, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
read this a short while ago, picked it up because it seemed like something that should be picked up by someone who loves robertson davies and took a history of magic class... and who doesn't adore "big fish" (the movie, not the book, which i (!) haven't read)? this one is really lovely. there seem to be a lot of complaints about how it isn't "big fish," but i think that is as tender and insightful about the love and loyalty between siblings here as he was tender and insightful about parent/child ...more
Nov 27, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was not exactly what I expected--which, I suppose, is what you should expect from a story about magicians.

Henry Walker, the magician in question, works at a traveling circus until he his accosted by some unfriendly locals. In his absence, his circus freak friends all tell their version of Henry's life, leading to quite a few contradictions and the requisite plot twists. It's complicated but not deep, and it sped along fast and enjoyably enough. My biggest problem was that the story Wa
I'm not quite sure what to say about the book. It was gripping, and I was grouchy to have to put it down to answer the phone or go to work, but parts of it made me angry. Some of the characters are so selfish that I had a hard time enjoying their points of view. I felt so sorry for Henry and yet, at other moments, I wanted to shake him and tell him to pay more attention to what was actually going on around him. I know at least that I enjoyed the book and Wallace's writing style, so I'm sure I'll ...more
This was a very different book. The title sort of throws people off. I chose it because I really loved the creativity of Big Fish (the author's other book). This plot line was also very clever and imaginative, but the only reason I could only give it 3 stars was because it was kind of depressing. It was definitely not a feel good ending, but it was a very easy read (I think it took me 5 days) and an enjoyable enough book.
May 18, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Do you find it creepy when a book is cute AND disturbing? Because this one has all of the cuteness of "Big Fish" but also deals with beatings, horrendous sex, child abduction, and racism. On that last note, it is also a little weird to deal with the issue of 50's southern racism without [50th page spoiler alert] having a single character who is, actually, black. Still, an entertaining read.
Erin Caldwell
This book wasn't bad, but it was very much like Big Fish. Near the end I thought to myself, if I wanted to read Big Fish again, why didn't I just read Big Fish? The ending was kind of dull and I had a hard time getting through it. I finished it in 4 days but it was burdensome for me to pick up the book, which isn't a good sign.
Though the only book I have read by Daniel Wallace, this seems to fit into the Big Fish, non-linea style - truly a story told by many storytellers. It is at times very sad and dark, exposing the hard underbelly of life, while at others uplifting and funny. In the end nothing in the novel is what it seems, a pretty appropriate notion for a novel about the tumultuous life of a magician.
Anne Ylvisaker
Nov 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Henry is an intriguing character; his tragic story captured by people who passed through his life. It's an engrossing, mesmerizing read, compelling in its multiple voices and its circus setting. Daniel Wallace sets the reader firmly in a time and place. The writing is lovely. The lives I glimpsed in this novel haunt me now a week after finishing it.
Feb 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some fairly troubling issues surrounding race that the author never really addresses but the story has some fun turns of narrative and I loved the circus characters. The multiple voices in the writing were very satisfying, though the multiple versions of the truth got a little irritating after a while,
Apr 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting characters-- a literal and figurative sideshow and almost a re-entry into the world of "Big Fish". Lots of twists and turns as with illusions you are never ever sure of what is real and what is imaginary.
What is love? What is death? In fact what is a "Negro" magician? I hung with this, carried on by the drama of various "reveals" but the ending left me a little flat.
Kris Dinnison
Aug 05, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Big Fish" was a book I loved, in part for it's non-linear storytelling. Wallace uses similarly unconventional techniques here, with a series of narrators who each know a part of the story. Packed full of memorable characters and moments that really resonate.
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't sure at first but I actually really enjoyed this one. It left me with a lot to think about and discuss. Definitely in the re-read stack.
Ali Schultz
I think this was ultimately better than Big Fish even. But then again, I'm a sucker for magicians and carnies.
Sandie Buto
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Liked this one much better than Big Fish!
Jun 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-the-shelf

That's the summary of my review for this book in case you don't want to go over the whole thing. Not that it's going to be very long. I can't say much about something I don't understand. Well, I do understand but kind of not and really ... I stared at the last page for a few minutes after I read it. Okay maybe just seconds. Normally, I don't like writing a summary of the book in a book review because that's what a blurb is for but just so I can prove I understood (lol), I'm going to
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So for those who finished it... 2 12 Oct 27, 2009 07:35AM  
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Daniel Wallace is author of five novels, including Big Fish (1998), Ray in Reverse (2000), The Watermelon King (2003), Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician (2007), and most recently The Kings and Queens of Roam (2013).

He has written one book for children, Elynora, and in 2008 it was published in Italy, with illustrations by Daniela Tordi. O Great Rosenfeld!, the only book both written and illustra
More about Daniel Wallace...
“Mine was a crazy dream- but what dream isn't crazy? Can a dream be a dream and be sensible? No. A sensible dream is a plan. Men like us dream, and our dreams come true because we believe in ourselves.” 5 likes
More quotes…