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The Last Great Road Bum

9780374720407 fc
Digital, MCD × FSG, 2020
Releases 08/25/20
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Héctor Tobar

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In The Last Great Road Bum, Héctor Tobar turns the peripatetic true story of a naive son of Urbana, Illinois, who died fighting with guerrillas in El Salvador into the great American novel for our times.

Joe Sanderson died in pursuit of a life worth writing about. He was, in his words, a “road bum,” an adventurer and a storyteller, belonging to no place, people, or set of ideas. He was born into a childhood of middle-class contentment in Urbana, Illinois and died fighting with guerillas in Central America. With these facts, acclaimed novelist and journalist Héctor Tobar set out to write what would become The Last Great Road Bum.

A decade ago, Tobar came into possession of the personal writings of the late Joe Sanderson, which chart Sanderson’s freewheeling course across the known world, from Illinois to Jamaica, to Vietnam, to Nigeria, to El Salvador—a life determinedly an adventure, ending in unlikely, anonymous heroism.

The Last Great Road Bum is the great American novel Joe Sanderson never could have written, but did truly live—a fascinating, timely hybrid of fiction and nonfiction that only a master of both like Héctor Tobar could pull off.

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  • Praise for The Last Great Road Bum“Héctor Tobar uses every method at his disposal to encircle the facts of the ‘conspicuous gringo’ whose archive landed in his lap. I’m in awe of the results, an alchemical amalgam of tender portraiture and illuminating context, with a voice full of riffs and references, and charming as hell. Tobar can seemingly do anything as a writer; here he bridges fiction and nonfiction effortlessly.”

    Jonathan Lethem“Tobar’s stunning follow-up to Deep Down Dark draws from the unbelievable true story of Joe Sanderson, a peripatetic would-be-writer who left a comfortable existence in Urbana, Ill., in order to travel the world in search of material for a great American novel. Instead, he found romance, danger, and the dark heart of the mid-20th century...Tobar brilliantly succeeds in capturing Joe’s guileless yearning for adventure through high-velocity prose that is both relentless and wry. Tobar’s wild ride achieves a version of Kerouac for a new age.”
  • Praise for The Last Great Road Bum"Tobar's stunning follow-up to Deep Down Dark . . . [features] high-velocity prose that is both relentless and wry . . . achieves a version of Kerouac for a new age."

    Publishers WeeklyPraise for Héctor Tobar“A riveting story...[but] why it’s an extraordinary book is because of Héctor Tobar’s writing, which is so beautiful and so thoughtful that he’s taking on all of the big issues of life: what is life worth, what is the value of one human life, what is faith, who do we become in our darkest hour? He really brings this story to a level that I don’t feel anyone else could have done . . . It’s the best book of the year.”
  • “Hector Tobar’s The Tattooed Soldier brings the enmities of the Guatemalan civil war to the L.A. riots.”

    Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times on The Tattooed Soldier
  • Praise for Héctor Tobar“A riveting story...[but] why it’s an extraordinary book is because of Héctor Tobar’s writing, which is so beautiful and so thoughtful that he’s taking on all of the big issues of life: what is life worth, what is the value of one human life, what is faith, who do we become in our darkest hour? He really brings this story to a level that I don’t feel anyone else could have done . . . It’s the best book of the year.”

    Ann Patchett, NPR’s Morning Edition on Deep Down Dark
  • Praise for The Last Great Road Bum"Tobar's stunning follow-up to Deep Down Dark . . . [features] high-velocity prose that is both relentless and wry . . . achieves a version of Kerouac for a new age."

    Publishers Weekly
  • “A triumph . . . Crosswires de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America with Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries.

    Steve Erickson, New York Times Book Review, on Translation Nation