Ordinary Genius


Ordinary Genius

Thomas Fox Averill

Flyover Fiction Series

148 pages


April 2005


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Falling under the spell of these short stories by O. Henry Award–winning author Thomas Fox Averill, a reader might well wonder: What in the world is ordinary? If there really are “just plain folks” anywhere at all, they’d surely be in the solid Midwestern Kansas of Averill’s fiction. And yet the “ordinary” people we meet in these stories lead us into one startling encounter after another with the mystery, the magic, and, yes, the transcendence that even the most mundane life secretly holds.
In writing that has been called “lyrical” (New York Times), “compelling” (Kansas City Star), and “voluptuous” (Booklist), Averill explores the relationship between fathers and sons, the dead and the living, the natural and the unnatural. With crystalline clarity he reveals the ordinary and the extraordinary genius of a place, a time, a solitary soul embedded in the minutiae of the everyday: a young boy hunting for a runaway horse; a couple ostracized in their small town; a grieving high school basketball star; a child with a voice purer than a tuning fork; a gay son seeking his father’s acceptance; two boys playing bocce with the parish priest for high stakes—the secret of their birth. If there is magic in love, in acceptance, in sorrow and solace in all the usual places, then these stories find that magic with ordinary genius.

Author Bio

Thomas Fox Averill is writer-in-residence and a professor of English at Washburn University of Topeka. He is the author of the novels Secrets of the Tsil Cafe and The Slow Air of Ewan MacPherson.


"Nebraska inaugurates its new Flyover Fiction series, edited by Ron Hansen, with this slim, elegiac collection. . . . In all these stories, Averill illuminates the magical in the mundane: just because the rest of the world flies right over Kansas doesn’t mean they’re not missing out."—Publishers Weekly

"Plainspoken, sharply observed collection from O. Henry Award-winner Averill (The Slow Air of Ewan Macpherson), first in a new series focused on the nation's heartland. . . . [Averill] creates a landscape at once realistic and fantastic, inhabited by characters whose eccentricities make them fully human."—Kirkus Reviews

"Averill, like the best midwestern writers, transcends social commentary to reach into deeper strata. Like Willa Cather and William Stafford, he understands that human habitation of the Great Plains is a small portion of the land's mythos. His characters speak and act like human beings, but ultimately they unmask and reveal themselves as cosmic elements. This remarkable range in Ordinary Genius is the gift of Averill's writings."—Bloomsbury Review

"Explores the transcendent and magical qualities that transform even the most mundane life in Midwestern Kansas, capturing the unique and extraordinary world of a boy hunting for a runaway horse, a couple ostracized in their small town, a grieving basketball star, and the other colorful characters."—Forecast

"In Thomas Fox Averill's fictional world, average people have the darndest adventures. . . . Averil's book, balancing magical moments with lush, descriptive writing that captures the grit and beauty of Kansas landscapes, knocks the notion of the Great Dull Middle flat on its can."—Kansas Alumni Magazine


2006 William Rockhill Nelson Award, sponsored by the Writers Place & the Kansas City Star, finalist
2005 Kansas Notable Books List, sponsored by the Kansas Center for the Book, selection

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