The Circus of the Earth and the Air Hardcover – Jan 1994
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From Publishers Weekly
While on vacation on a small island off the coast of North Carolina, Alex and Iris Barton feel as if they are in a pleasant dream when they stumble across an odd circus. But the dream turns into a nightmare in this flawed but promising first novel when a conjurer makes Iris disappear. Alex's search for her takes him on a strange journey that leads to a small Mississippi church, an island devoted to the circus stage and into the darkness of his childhood. Along the way, he gets help from a cast of characters straight out of Wonderland: a contortionist, a sheriff of Indian descent, even the conjurer who caused him so much trouble. Many of the nightmarish situations the author employs to advance the plot are cliched and not particularly surprising. However, his writing is, for the most part, adequately lucid; he describes circus life vividly (having once worked for Ringling Bros.) and understands how its mystique operates in the American subconscious. Old, grainy photos of various circus performers scattered throughout the text enhance its slightly surreal mood.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In this dreamlike, nightmarish novel, the action is continually shifting from the nearly incomprehensible to the nearly normal. The protagonist, Alex, watches as his wife volunteers for a disappearing act at a circus on the island of Verre. When she does not return, and no one seems even to remember her, he sets off on a surreal odyssey filled with horrors, torture--both physical and mental--and a cast of characters from a different world: the world of the circus. Alex's adventures, bizarre encounters, and musings are punctuated by photographs of circus performers. He finds what he seeks, but what is it? What was it? Author Stevens, who worked as a tiger groom with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circuses, has written an amazing first novel that strikes repeatedly at the core of the notion of the performer, the performance, and the unknown. Eloise KinneySee all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
The book is a wild ride, I will give it that. It has a touch of magical realism, a healthy dose of the absurd, and an absolute fascination with the Circus. In many spots, it is quite haunting, and for that alone, it is worth the read.
One of the small flaws I noticed, was the absolutely unnecessary (and somewhat anti-thematic) adultury. Didn't quite get the purpose for all of that when the book is basically the main character's search for his wife. Absolute conviction and dedication don't really mix with infidelity on a plot level.
Still, at around 10 bucks, it's worth ignoring the few flaws. All-in-all, an easy-to-read entertainer with some higher aspirations.
The story is told in a straight-forward, lucid, almost childlike prose. This is both a stregnth and a weakness. While this approach-- for the most part, simple, declarative sentences-- makes it easy to read in one sitting, it robs it of a certain resonance. It a pharse, the language is not deft enough to create any real sort of ambiguity or enigma. Now, obviously, this is a matter of preference. I'm a reader of Pynchon, Millhauser, Kafka, Bartheleme, Gaddis, Barth, Coover, etc. I feel that Stevens' work is, in a sense greatly informed by such authors-- especially Millhauser, and on a more subliminal level, Kafka. Stevens does invite you into a dreamworld, but there really isn't much for the reader to do but observe. This is an enjoyable, but not challenging book. It doesn't ask the reader to do a lot of work. Worse, there is a sort of "feel-good-new-agey" thread that surfaces once in a while, and seems evident in the Hollwood-esque ending. (another reader remarked that the ending was open to interpretation-- I don't really believe that it is open to ENOUGH interpretation-- there are really only two possibilities.) The "blue light" I felt, to at once be cliche, but also not really explained well enough. There is a difference between deliberately creating ambiguity and being unclear. I think Stevens just doesn't explain himself well enough.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This book operates on an entirely different plane than most other novels. It is an action novel that's simultaneously psychological, mythological and emotional. Read morePublished on Sept. 4 2000 by George Parker
I pretty much wept for joy when I read this book. It was like Brooke Stevens had gotten into my head at night and captured my dreams. The book is a dream. Read morePublished on April 25 1999 by Nathaniel Eaton (EatonNat@aol.com)