Spotlight Shines on America's First Superstar
Dr. Nicholas Rinaldi, author and professor of English emeritus, will shine a spotlight on one of Bridgeport’s most famous sons, General Tom Thumb, at a reading, gallery tour, and book-signing at the Barnum Museum next week. The event, which is free and open to the public, takes place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 22 at the museum, 820 Main Street, Bridgeport.
Dr. Rinaldi, author of The Remarkable Courtship of General Tom Thumb (Scribner, 2014), will read from his book about P.T. Barnum’s diminutive international star and the museum will offer a gallery tour before the book-signing. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the museum. The American Studies Program is sponsoring this evening.
Rinaldi’s long-awaited fourth novel truly lives up to the superlative title and reveals the author, an award-winning novelist and poet, as a craftsman at the top of his form. "Rinaldi imaginatively blends fact and fiction in this breezy 19th-century historical,” wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, calling the new novel “top-notch entertainment.”
Set against the backdrop of the Civil War, the irresistible new book centers on the life of Tom Thumb, a young man only 25 inches tall when he first appeared on stage, destined to become America’s most widely recognized entertainer at home and abroad.
Discovered at age four by P.T. Barnum, Tom Thumb (born Charles Stratton) soon found himself traveling internationally, sitting on the laps of the queens of Europe, and entertaining the masses at Barnum’s highly successful American Museum in New York City. Tom and his wife, Lavinia Warren, (pictured at their wedding, right) were even hosted at the White House by President Lincoln. With the country at war, they set out on their honeymoon tour and witnessed firsthand the fracture between the states, the heroism of young soldiers, and the unbreakable spirit of the American people.
Written in a witty and lyrical voice, with a colorful secondary cast including Lincoln, Barnum, and Walt Whitman, this is an evocative, poignant imagining of one man’s story at a unique moment in American history.
A longtime member of the English faculty at Fairfield, Rinaldi unveiled his last novel, the critically acclaimed Between Two Rivers, in 2005. The Bridgeport resident is also the author of The Jukebox Queen of Malta, Bridge Fall Down, and three volumes of poetry.
The Boston Globe has called Rinaldi’s work “wryly humorous and periodically heart-rending,” while The New York Times exclaimed “Joseph Heller, William Styron, Norman Mailer…Rinaldi belongs in their company.”