Tents, trains and circus magic

Tents are up on campus this time of year. In the quiet week before the festivities begin, pre-graduation, pre-reunions, pre-P-rade, it seems like a ghost circus has invaded Princeton. Walking by, I think of some great circus stories I’ve read or listened to.

There’s Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus,” winner of the 2012 Locus Award for First Novel  (Science Fiction and Fantasy). “The Night Circus” is a haunting and memorable tale of Le Cirque des Rves, a magical circus, deserted by day and alive at night. The black and white tents host amazing and unusually gifted performers, set with illusions created by two competing magicians, Celia and Marco. If you haven’t read this delightful book, stop by the Book Group table and grab a copy. I downloaded an e-book copy from eLibraryNJ. Audiobook versions are also available there and in our CD collection.

By sheer thematic coincidence, I recently listened to Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants,” a novel set on (or just-off) a circus train in Depression-era America. I loved the voices of Jacob, both as a young man and as the elderly narrator who looks back on the people and animals he met after joining the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. There’s a fascinating interview with the author on her website which describes how her research for the book led her to blend fiction and fact. This time, I downloaded an audiobook from OneClick Digital. Library copies are also available on Playaway, CD, as an e-book, and in print.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus has already finished its 2013 tour of the tri-state area. While you savor the celebrations in tents this season, dream of the circus and hark back to performers in times past by checking out Circus reads, a list of eclectic literary fiction recommendations with some music and biography to spice up the mix.

To get you in the mood, watch singer/songwriter Jonatha Brooke perform “Damn Everything But the Circus.”http://www.youtube.com/embed/eGtVybj1dSo?rel=0

Photo credit: Circus train and horses arrive in Boston (ca. 1930), Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection

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