“JEDI SUMMER WITH THE MAGNETIC KID” (Book Review)Books/Art/Culture,News,Reviews Shawn Macomber
A few years back John Boden embedded his lyrical, surrealist “End Times mosaic” DOMINOES into a brilliantly illustrated packaging scheme mimicking those classic Little Golden books we all coo n’ aww’ed our way through growing up, replacing the Poky little puppy and Scuffy the tugboat with Allan, a very jaded harvester of souls. It’s safe to say in lesser hands the project could’ve got too impressed with its own conception and flown straight off the goddamn rails in execution, but the rising horror scribe was canny and deft enough in his approach to that the cute conceit strengthened rather than overwhelmed the affecting, legit disquieting narrative.
Boden’s latest novella—the coming-of-age tale JEDI SUMMER WITH THE MAGNETIC KID—is extraordinarily different in form and narrative approach to DOMINOES, yet ultimately summons forth a similarly beguiling mash-up of the totems of innocence and dark fever dream fantasia, played out across a hardscrabble working class backdrop—think Ray Bradbury taking a stroll through Carolyn Chute’s BEANS OF EGYPT MAINE or Russell Banks’ TRAILERPARK en route to SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES.
Narrated from some point far enough in the future to be steeped in bittersweet nostalgia and regret, Johnny introduces himself to readers in a way that will no doubt resonate with many FANGORIA devotees: “I was not an athlete. I read books and wrote stories. I was lanky and had long hair. I loved horror and music. I was a self-made pariah.”
From there we’re dropped into the summer of 1983, with all the vestiges and hard rock/horror accouterments, wherein teenage Johnny is trying to simultaneously revel in the last vestiges of youth and grow up fast enough to be something of a care-giving father figure to his younger brother Roscoe. This, given the moment in time, naturally revolves around whittling away the days until a certain science fiction sequel finally arrives at the local cinema.
This relationship is beautifully rendered and the growing pains are heightened by glimpses of the macabre and supernatural that tell us these boys’ lives are tied up in a bigger picture just beyond our comprehensive capabilities—ghostly apparitions, say, or a body hanging from a tree with a bird’s nest where its heart should be.
What makes these sinister snatches all the more effective is Boden’s choice to not beat each to death by following a standard narrative script. JEDI SUMMER is, instead, a quite immersive, atmospheric experience that seems designed, more than anything, to burrow into your soul and whisper to the deepest, more ruminative part of your being a few truths about the wonderfulness, the weirdness, and the ephemeral element of existence. Or: Love while you can.