On the train trip home I polished my trophy with Kleenexes, polished it for miles and miles. . .

Novelist Dan McCall details his obsessive quest to become the 1950s poster boy for American optimism. After winning multiple national speech contests and becoming “California Boy of the Year,” his appearance on the rigged TV quiz show Strike It Rich forces him to come to terms with deceptions about himself, his family, and his country. Later, as a student at Stanford, he is exhilarated and disturbed by his first experiences with alcohol and sex. He also finds himself irresistibly drawn to reading and writing fiction. The memoir is framed by McCall as a young adult in crisis, drunk and alone in a dark corner of Calcutta, facing the demons that would soon compel him to become a writer.

True confessions of an all-American 1950s poster boy. From the professional speech circuit to a rigged TV game show, Dan McCall details what drove him to be a paragon of postwar optimism—until he simply couldn't anymore, ending up in a brothel in Calcutta and reemerging as an acclaimed novelist and teacher.

Advance praise
“A profoundly self-aware memoir from a man who was a performer all his life. This is the story of a young man who falls in love with applause, who realizes at a dangerously young age that most people do not care about the difference between the truth and a lie—so long as they are entertained. A compelling and highly relevant tale in these times of fake news.”
-- Philipp Meyer, Pulitzer Prize-nominated author of The Son

"Boy on a Unicycle is a remarkable account of an All-American boy achiever and dreamer. It is both funny and deeply sad: a tragicomedy of brilliant youthful success and a hard look at the dark underside of this success, and its cost to one remarkably gifted writer."
Alison Lurie, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Foreign Affairs

“Dan McCall has written beautifully about the problems of being at the top, the national champion of this or that. To be there is to be left with all the devices and forces of competition that got you there idled in your new eminence. No resistance anywhere, no one else to defeat; one’s polished dynamics not able to function at large. Oneself the object of one’s contrivances.”
-- A. R. Ammons, winner of the National Book Award for Poetry

"Boy on a Unicycle is the powerful story of a heavily tutored show kid who sucked in unquestioning minds with a dramatically sentimental presentation of patriotism. It provides one hell of a peek behind the curtain of the saccharin image of WASP life promoted largely through TV sitcoms of the '50s... If there was something formally called WASP Studies, this book would be essential reading."
-- Reuben Munday

"Boy on a Unicycle is a great book by a shamefully under-recognized American novelist. Dan McCall's memoir of his golden-boy youth in the 1950s, when he won national speech contests with patriotic paeans to America's dream of itself, appeared on the Today program, and took part in a rigged TV game show, is a compelling portrayal of that time and this country -- and an entertaining if awful depiction of the price paid for being a child prodigy."
-- Ed Zuckerman, Executive Producer and Writer, Law and Order

"From beginning to end the author takes a distinct pleasure in evoking these days of his youth, and the reader just as great a pleasure in reading about them. For twenty-plus years Dan McCall was the nation's boy, and in every sense he lived up to the role."
-- Lamar Herrin, author of The Lies Boys Tell and Fractures

"Dan McCall's prose moves with clarity and assurance, having nothing to prove, and so much to offer."
-- Wayne Gladstone, author of Notes From the Internet Apocalypse

"Dan McCall engages and enchants the reader by creating vivid images with a few select words…. A thrilling discovery from a classic American writer, told with heart, honesty, and style."
-- Kirsten Lobe, author of Paris Hangover

"...Outspoken, charismatic and oftentimes controversial, his gruff, booming timbre commanded dozens of sections in Cornell University’s English Department, a place he held court over for 40 years. He was show business incarnate, boasting a personality so large, so infectious, so polarizing, it could seemingly not be contained within a single lifetime: it needed to be projected, shared, broadcast into the collective psyche of an entire nation – rapt at attention with the whirlwind that was Dan McCall. It seemed for a time, everybody knew who he was. Everyone, except Dan McCall himself..."
- Nick Reynolds at The Ithaca Times

Dan McCall (1940-2012) was the author of ten books of fiction and non-fiction, including Beecher (Dutton Books), Triphammer (Atlantic Monthly Press), and The Example of Richard Wright (Harcourt Brace). Dan was a beloved Professor of Creative Writing and American Studies at Cornell University for forty years. His novel Jack the Bear (Doubleday), translated into a dozen languages, was made into a 20th-Century Fox feature film. BOY ON A UNICYCLE was edited posthumously by Dan's son, Steven McCall.

Join Steven McCall at Buffalo Street Books, November 4, 2017

Boy On A Unicycle
Confessions of A Young Man Trained To Be A Winner
Dan McCall
245 pages
$16.00 paperback ISBN 9781944853334
$9.99 ebook ISBN 9781944853549

September 2017

My life in speech contests began in April of 1952, when Mother registered me for the Optimist International oratory competition. . .

copyright 2016 OP19 Books LLC