$16.95

Samuel Johnson's Eternal Return

A novel by Martin Riker

October 9, 2018 • 5.5 x 8.25 • 256 pages • 978-1-56689-528-6

After he dies, Samuel Johnson inhabits one body after the next, waiting for a chance to return to his son.

When Samuel Johnson dies, he finds himself in the body of the man who killed him, unable to depart this world but determined, at least, to return to the son he left behind. Moving from body to body as each one expires, Samuel’s soul journeys on a comic quest through an American half-century, inhabiting lives as stymied, in their ways, as his own. A ghost story of the most unexpected sort, Martin Riker’s extraordinary debut is about the ways experience is mediated, the unstoppable drive for human connection, and the struggle to be more fully alive in the world.

About the Author

Martin Riker grew up in central Pennsylvania. He worked as a musician for most of his twenties, worked in nonprofit literary publishing for most of his thirties, and has spent the first half of his forties teaching in the English department at Washington University in St. Louis. In 2010, he and his wife Danielle Dutton co-founded the feminist press Dorothy, a Publishing Project. His fiction and criticism have appeared in publications including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, London Review of Books, the Baffler, and Conjunctions. This is his first novel.


Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired. To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.

Reviews

A Summer/Fall 2018 Indies Introduce Debut Fiction Selection
The Millions, “Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2018 Book Preview”
Boston Globe, "23 hot picks for cool fall books”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “What to read this fall: 20 (plus) titles we can't wait to grab”

“Riker is a gifted storyteller, and his novel’s enchanting exploration of humanity and philosophy, of how humans connect with their environment and community, is unforgettable.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“The debut of Riker’s first novel, Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return, is so thrilling for us bookish types.” —The Millions

“This is a comic-philosophical novel, the other side of the same coin as Milan Kundera’s ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being.’” —The Wall Street Journal

“A lush, comic, and bighearted journey through the minds and experiences of American strangers.” —Literary Hub

“Reincarnation, cycles of violence, and the history of television: Martin Riker’s debut novel finds an intriguing overlap between a host of seemingly disparate subjects.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“A darkly funny contemporary story.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return is the needle and thread that connects life and death, grumpy old man and flâneur.” —New Pages

“A philosophical yet fast-paced tale filled with satisfyingly unexpected turns.” —Booklist

“John Donne once proclaimed, ‘I sing the progress of a deathless soul.’ Well, so does Martin Riker. His Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return is a masterpiece of metempsychosis. That it also warbles and bellows so brilliantly about fatherhood and husbandhood, about the religious life and the mediated life, is an indication of Riker’s range, which is as rolling-field-expansive as his empathy.” —Joshua Cohen

“One of our finest readers is now one of our most exciting novelists. . . . A funny, amiable, wholly original time-bender of a debut.” —Ed Park

“By turns hilarious and tragic, Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return is a haunting and bizarre novel of twentieth-century television and other forsaken American landscapes.” —Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi

“Funny, gorgeous, haunted.” —St. Louis Magazine

“A quirky novel that uses the transmigration of the soul to meditate on the human condition.” —Kirkus

“This peripatetic novel somehow manages to be a thoughtful treatment of TV AND a beautiful statement on why we write books.” —Josh Cook, Porter Square Books (Cambridge MA)

“After his violent death, Samuel Johnson inhabits multiple souls as he strives to reunite with his now orphaned young son. Traveling between dark humor, unfathomable tragedy, and tracing the history of television in America, Martin Riker's outstanding debut novel Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return illustrates how the human spirit can persevere.” ―Caitlin Luce Baker, University Book Store (Seattle WA)

“Ambitious and memorable, deadly serious and unexpectedly comic, Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return is the ghost story you’ve been waiting for.” ―Michael Hermann, Gibson’s Bookstore (Concord NH)

Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return is about Samuel Johnson, who dies only to find himself inside someone else's body a mere passenger. Though seemingly powerless to influence his host, Samuel is desperate to get back to his son and the life he left behind. That’s a fun and creative plot, which alone would probably sell me on the book. But Martin Riker’s debut novel is full of so much more. It's also about Nietzsche and friendship and what we spend our time doing and especially television. Riker’s long subplot about television is almost as extraordinary as Samuel Johnson's own journey. Is life merely one long repetition? Does television unite us or divide us? Can you live a life without all the boring parts? I don’t know if Riker answers these questions, but with witty and captivating prose, the journey to ask them sure is worth it.” —Kyle Curry, The Book Cellar (Chicago IL)

“A perfectly wondrous tale, wildly engaging from the  start, so sure and graceful in the telling, so crazyhuman in the best ways. It is now one of my favorite books.” —Rikki Ducornet