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Map of the Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catcher in the Rye Meets the Sex Pistols

 

It’s a subzero Chicago morning on January 23, 1989—the Monday after George H.W. Bush’s inauguration—and Seamus is at his fighting best. Braving the bitter cold at the 85A bus stop, Seamus rails against his repressive environment in anticipation of his “the-minute-I-turn-18” move to London.

 

His escape velocity mounts against the backdrop of a Midwest metropolis as memories, fantasies, and cityscapes collide on his commute to the south-side Jesuit high school that’s itching to kick him out for bad grades and excessive demerits. When Seamus shows up late to school yet again, the dean prepares his expulsion papers. Liberated by failure, Seamus makes a break for London via an Amtrak to the mean streets of Late Eighties Manhattan.

 

85A tracks a watershed day in the life of an adolescent antihero. Foulmouthed with a capital F-word, Seamus embodies Johnny Rotten’s anarchic image as a way of fending off the bullies at home, at school and in his whites-only neighborhood. Luckily for him, his mixed-raced, teen-prodigy friend Tressa opens him up to great books and experiences that turn his worldview on its head. Similarly, the Chicago L takes Seamus into integrated areas, giving him a glimpse of life outside the neighborhood, and Chicago’s thriving underground music and art scenes fortify his rebellion against the mainstream. Through it all, Seamus basks in rebroadcasted BBC dramas, dreaming of what life would be if only he could stow away to London.

 

By the time Seamus reaches his last L stop, he will come to see that his 85A ride that morning was just the kickoff to an intrepid urban odyssey.