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Description Under the Big Top: A Season with the Circus Summary:
By Bruce Feiler
* Publisher: Harper Perennial
* Number Of Pages: 288
* Publication Date: 2003-04-01
* ISBN-10 / ASIN: 0060527021
* ISBN-13 / EAN: 9780060527020
Both a great American adventure and a rare entry into asheltered world, Under the Big Top describes one man's pursuit of every child's fantasy: running away to join the circus. Bruce Feiler's unforgettable year as a clown will forever change your view of one of the world's oldest art forms and remind you of how dreams can go horribly wrong -- and then miraculously come true.
Summary: Colourful, humorous, and fascinating glimpse of the secret lives of the circus...
I first discovered Bruce Feiler from reading his "Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan" in preparation for the JET Program. Being a longtime fan of the circus, when I saw "Under the Big Top," I couldn't resist. Bruce's humorous writing style (think an overeducated Dave Barry - Feiler has degrees from Yale and Cambridge) chronicles a season spent with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus, the largest tented circus in the world. He cleverly works in the fact that most circus novels (he makes thinly veiled references to Angela Carter's "Nights at the Circus" and Katherine Dunn's "Geek Love" deal with the fantastic (half-swan half-woman) and horrific (circus freaks seeking revenge), but not the day-to-day lives of the performers and crew (one notable exception is the excellent "The Circus In Winter" by Cathy Day). Bruce acts on his lifelong desire to be a clown (he had a previous history of theatre at Yale and of miming), and is tossed into the testosterone-fuelled world of the circus's Clown Alley, where he meets an assortment of lively characters (most with criminal records) and some sexual deviants. He quickly becomes acquainted with his circus "family": the performers (acrobats, lion tamers, human cannonball), and brings the reader along on a fascinating journey into a vanishing world (confrontations with animal rights groups become more and more frequent as the season progresses). The narrative is slightly choppy, due to the present description of action in the ring that dissolves into a past narrative, then back, but "Under the Big Top" is sure to please young-at-heart fans of the circus with its menagerie of unique personalities and talents that would be out of place in the "real world."