Demigods on Speedway (Paperback)

By Aurelie Sheehan

University of Arizona Press, 9780816531103, 160pp.

Publication Date: November 13, 2014

List Price: 16.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Men in dinosaur suits. A Norwegian freakazoid millionaire. Cats and catharsis, somber symbols, listless lives going off the rails. Pluck, persistence, and the pursuit of happiness.

In the tradition of Joyce’s Dubliners, Demigods on Speedway is a portrait of a city that reflects the recession-era Southwest. Inspired by tales from Greek mythology, these gritty heroes and heroines struggle to find their place in the cosmos. Each of these linked stories develops the extremes of the modern psyche: an executive struggling to understand his wife’s illness even as he compulsively cheats on her, a teenage runaway whose attraction to her “twin” is bound to fail, an overweight boy vicariously experiencing true love through the tales of his trainer, a car-wash attendant with outsized dreams of Hollywood.

Characters with mythical-sounding names like Dagfinn and Zero plot their courses through a sky riddled with flawed constellations. Sheehan’s edgy language aptly reveals her characters as they lurch toward the next day’s irreverent beginning. As the characters’ lives overlap, their stories carry mythology out of the past and into a very modern dilemma: the cumulative sense that here is a city with its own demigods, individuals struggling to survive under siege while passionately seeking to make something immortal in their lives.

About the Author

Aurelie Sheehan is the author of two novels and two short story collections, most recently Jewelry Box: A Collection of Histories. Her short fiction has appeared in Conjunctions, Fence, The Mississippi Review, New England Review, Ploughshares, and The Southern Review. She teaches fiction at the University of Arizona.

Praise For Demigods on Speedway

“With prose that is vivid, sly, and original, and in stories that are smart and thought-provoking, Sheehan has written a collection that would be a great addition to any fiction list.”—Sylvia Brownrigg, author of Morality Tale: A Novel

“Aurelie Sheehan’s demigods, like their ancient counterparts, are tragic and comic and utterly, movingly human. And Tucson, her twenty-first-century Olympus, in all its sizzle and steaminess, comes gorgeously to life. I couldn’t put this book down and I didn’t want it to end. So I read it again and loved it even more.”—Karen Brennan, author of The Garden in Which I Walk

“This is a work of serious literary fiction that illustrates issues and lifestyles of people in contemporary Tucson. It's original, both dramatically and poetically moving.”—Ann Cummins, author of Yellowcake: A Novel

“Aurelie Sheehan is a master of illusion, but she’s not dealing in magic—she’s describing and defining the illusions of identity we conjure up daily in the twenty-first century. She’s a great portraitist, with a sharp eye for the absurdities of modern-day habits. In the seedy, sordid dustiness of a desert town, these characters wrangle with their tender ambitions, lining up their ideals with their realities. For all their bad habits and dead ends, these characters are endearing—they’re open to love, to surprise, to stark realizations. And all along, Sheehan’s writing is sensuous, sensory, bringing these worlds, our world, to vivid life.”—Timothy Schaffert, author of The Swan Gondola: A Novel

"In Demigods on Speedway, Aurelie Sheehan brings the Greek gods back to Earth and to the City of Tucson, with its high desert beauty, its spas and car-washes, its driving around. Zero and Hanna, Alyssa and Artesia fill the  long shifts of light and stars with longing, hope, self-regard and the desire for beauty, in all the noble and ignoble shapes that desire, and that beauty, can take.  But more impressive than her large and attractive cast of characters or her clever reworking of classical motifs is Sheehan’s portrait of  Tucson as a place a goddess might walk or a dog—Cerberus, naturally—might innocently dream of opening the gates of Hell: 'His job was to let the world in, let in all the birdsong and the yips and howls.' This is a Tucson lit by the divine’s fatal, exhilarating glamour."—Joyelle McSweeney, author of Salamandrine: 8 Gothics

"Fans of the short stories of Joy Williams and Lorrie Moore should appreciate this new talent. Be prepared to find yourself reading many of these stories twice and finding even more overlapping characters and settings amid sly reworkings of mythological motifs."—Library Journal