cover image Slow Train to Oxmox

Slow Train to Oxmox

Kurt Cyrus. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-37047-3

With this story of a hurried man who boards a sluggish train, Cyrus (Tangle Town) conjures the feeling of being unable to escape a bad dream. Corporate drone Edwin Blink is late for work; drizzle blurs his owlish glasses. Rather than board the sleek purple express train, he inadvertently boards a coach towed by an algae-green steam engine: ""The wrong platform. The wrong train."" Pinch-faced passengers fill the seats, and a few farm animals stand in the aisles, but Edwin is oblivious until the conductor announces, ""Slow train to Oxmox.... With stops at Loblolly and Twigtwist. And who knows, maybe a few other places."" Edwin's anxiety builds as the anachronistic train stops for a flock of geese, gets stuck in the mud and wrestles through a thicket of branches and roots. (""No one comes this way anymore but us. I guess we've been forgotten,"" the conductor explains.) Cyrus's images, tinged with gray and yellow, heighten the time-warp sensation. The sky changes color, the ground is insubstantial as quicksand, and no houses or trees can be seen to either side of the tracks. This doesn't scare the passengers, who hop out to push the train and cheerfully pronounce, ""This little train always gets us there, even if we have to drag it. We'll all pull together!"" Yet the claustrophobic, Sartre-like No Exit ambience clashes with the optimistic tone. Edwin learns about cooperation and helps keep the train moving, but the travelers never arrive at a destination. This volume is an atmospheric tour de force, even though its attempts at lightness get clouded by a surreal haze. Ages 3-up. (Sept.)