2006 Books 16 - 20

16. The Aerialist by Richard Schmitt -The second of the circus and carnival books I read for research, and by far, the better book. A young man runs away to join the circus....hardly an original idea. But the originality comes in the style of the story telling (occasionally changing characters p.o.v.) and that the main characters story arc isn't a clear straight line. The ending is weak compared to the rest of the book, it's hurried, as if Mr. Schmitt ran out of time and story, but the first four fifths of the book are a great trip to the big top.

17. Under the Big Top by Bruce Feiler -Another life in the circus book, this one is nonfiction. Mr. Feiler spent a season traveling with the Clyde Beaty-Cole Brothers Circus, one of the last large tent circuses. He trains (very quickly) as a clown, and drops right into what he calls the two halves of the circus, the performances and the performers. It's obvious from the story telling that Mr. Feiler loved his experience, and made a lot of friends while he was with the circus, because he's very hesitant to say anything negative about the experience. When he does, he's quick to point out positives to offset them. Rose colored glasses aside, if you've ever wondered about the day to day life of being part of a circus, I'd recommend this book.

18. Captain of the Sleepers by Mayra Montero, translated by Edith Grossman - The sense of place is perfect for a summer read - the story takes place mostly on the island of Vieques, with tropical breezes, sun filled descriptions of beaches and island villages, and a real feeling of the lethargy that hits in those kinds of environs. But there's a lot going on emotionally with all the characters, if you're willing to follow the non-linear story telling and keep track of how the two different points of view reveal the same past.

19. Underfoot in Show Business by Helene Hanff - my only regret of reading this is that I didn't read it years ago. I think I've found a new creative hero, although I'm sure Ms. Hanff would laugh at that. The stories she tells about trying to make it as a playwright on Broadway in the 40's and 50's aren't dated in the least bit, because there's always the underlying message of loving what you do is its own reward. I would have dearly loved to have met this woman, or even just followed her around for a day or so. She's an inspiration with a sense of humor.

20. Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell - if this hadn't
been so short, I wouldn't have finished it. The written dialect and sense of place are marvelous, but the story went no where for me.

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