What is so fascinating about circus life?

Use this forum to discuss the May 2018 Book of the Month, "The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid" by Gary Robinson
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cristinaro
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What is so fascinating about circus life?

Post by cristinaro » 01 May 2018, 03:04

One of the protagonists in Gary Robison's book is Duke Reynolds, a man who runs away from a dysfunctional family environment to join the traveling circus. He soon becomes the Sword Swallower and entertains people not only inside the circus tent, but also on every city street corner.

Duke's plunge into circus life reminded me of the Russian literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin who saw the carnival and carnivalesque as a celebration of freedom, a means of escaping social norms and conventions. At the circus, we are all ready to embrace the carnival atmosphere and forget restrictions.

1. What do you think of the mirage of circus life in general?
2. Are you still going to the circus? What do you love/hate most about the circus?
3. How is circus life described in the book?
4. Is Duke satisfied with his new life as a sword swallower?
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Post by P0tt3ry » 01 May 2018, 09:56

The circus has always fascinated me because it seems to be a foreign country that travels from place to place. My father was a carnie during his teens and early twenties. He'd entertain us with stories of the behind-the-scene aspects of tear-down and set-up, including the mishaps. I visualized a close family on a constant adventure. The book described circus life but not in-depth. I wanted to know more about the Duke's circus family and was disappointed that people he was close to just disappeared from the story. Duke was an adrenaline junky and sword swallowing, with the constant chance of death, satisfied the itch. Adding more and more acts struck me as a way for him to find new ways to achieve the adrenaline high.

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Post by Christina O Phillips » 01 May 2018, 10:21

I myself am drawn to the circus because it is so different from my day to day life: the activities, the food, the culture, the types of people. I enjoy stories that have a circus or traveling show as the setting (The Night Circus, a season of American Horror Story). I do not go to the circus anymore, but I do go to county fairs still. I am not done with this book yet so I can't answer the other questions.

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Post by Vlinstry » 01 May 2018, 11:32

Still reading the book but I can say that I have always found the circus life so alluring. I am a weird one because I don't actually like going to what most people think of as the circus as I am terrified of clowns, but I do love the more traditional cirucus' with the ideas being centred around misfits and the strange, yet wonderful. I love the pull of the circus. I love that it seems like a way of escaping the every day. It looks like it is a way to be part of a faimily and to bring joy to lots of other people at the same time.

Once I have finished the book I will be able to answer your other questions.

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Post by MsTri » 01 May 2018, 12:05

I don't plan to read this book, but I'd be happy to answer your first two questions:

I believe I'm fascinated by the circus, not to mention street performers, just because I'm so fascinated with the performers' talents. It's not everyday that you can just walk into a place and see someone "taming" a lion or swallowing swords or walking on a high-wire. Not even here in Chicago, *lmao!*

And even though I haven't gone to a circus in quite some time, I'd go in a heartbeat if I had the opportunity. You can already tell that I'm still a child at heart, so I love all things that allow me to revel in my inner youth.

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Post by AmySmiles » 01 May 2018, 12:12

I believe the circus, to many seems like an entirely different life. A whole different world. So much so it becomes a comical saying, I quit and I'm going to run away and join the circus. It's an escape maybe from the ho hum life that we seem to fall into. I imagine it would especially be alluring if you liked to travel. What a great way to "see the world". I myself have never been fascinated with the circus. I find the death defying acts to frightening, the clowns silly and the lion tamers crazy. But that is just my opinion. I'll stick to my old routine that I am comfortable with.
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Post by CatInTheHat » 01 May 2018, 19:36

The mirage of circus life is like delving into a counterculture that is so different than the norm that it fascinates me. Watching the way the different groups (clowns, sideshow acts, etc) interacted with each other intrigues me. I've read other books about circus life but none that went into depth about the drug culture.
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Post by apwaldrop » 01 May 2018, 20:32

I believe that the circus is so appealing to people because it is like it's own world. Everything operates within circus rules and guidelines and everyone pitches in and becomes part of this much bigger thing. You can run away from problems and unfortunately you end up facing a lot of new ones.

I do not currently visit any circus that comes through my state. I love how mystical the circus can seem and I hate how the workers treat the circus animals.

Duke's circus life is full of drugs and behavior that somewhat mirrors thrill seeking. A lot of people that join in on the dangerous acts are adrenaline junkies or in it for the fame because of a trade/talent they have mastered.

I felt like in some ways, that life was satisfying to him but it also helped fuel other issues he was having. Being around a lot of users and alcoholics makes that type of thing a very regular part of anyone's routine even if they don't initially partake.

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Post by holsam_87 » 01 May 2018, 20:51

cristinaro wrote:
01 May 2018, 03:04
One of the protagonists in Gary Robison's book is Duke Reynolds, a man who runs away from a dysfunctional family environment to join the traveling circus. He soon becomes the Sword Swallower and entertains people not only inside the circus tent, but also on every city street corner.

Duke's plunge into circus life reminded me of the Russian literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin who saw the carnival and carnivalesque as a celebration of freedom, a means of escaping social norms and conventions. At the circus, we are all ready to embrace the carnival atmosphere and forget restrictions.

1. What do you think of the mirage of circus life in general?
2. Are you still going to the circus? What do you love/hate most about the circus?
3. How is circus life described in the book?
4. Is Duke satisfied with his new life as a sword swallower?
1. The mirage of circus life makes it seem far beyond what I could ever do and it sounds like a lot of hard work.

2. I have never been to a circus. What I love most is the comradery and trust, but I hate the implications that people would abuse the animals that they work with

3. Circus life is described as a big family that works hard and does a lot of travel.

4. It appears that Duke is satisfied with being a sword swallower, especially since he's a big adrenaline junkie that was always finding ways to entice his audience.
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Post by Sketches_by_Shell » 02 May 2018, 09:12

The glamour of circus life draws people from all walks of life. Our curiosity is what makes us want to know what is happening behind the curtain! I've never attended a full-on circus, with animals, I've only seen Cirque du Soleil. I enjoyed Cirque du Soleil; the acrobatics and dance elements were phenomenal. I don't think I would enjoy the circus, with the animals and other elements. The sword swallower scares me.
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Post by Sketches_by_Shell » 02 May 2018, 09:22

CatInTheHat wrote:
01 May 2018, 19:36
The mirage of circus life is like delving into a counterculture that is so different than the norm that it fascinates me. Watching the way the different groups (clowns, sideshow acts, etc) interacted with each other intrigues me. I've read other books about circus life but none that went into depth about the drug culture.
Just like watching a horror movie is intriguing to me; it is like "delving into a counterculture." I like that description. I enjoy reading books that speak of other cultures, but I don't think I would enjoy this one. The circus is a culture in which I would prefer not to spend my time reading.
"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." Cicero

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Post by Ginnamassa19 » 02 May 2018, 10:00

Many probably go to the circus for the same reason they visit a different country—because it seems exotic, different, and exciting. There's also an air of mysteriousness about the whole idea of the circus, since a lot of the acts seem almost like magic, and there's a lot of suspense to that. That's probably why you see so many stories and shows that are set in circuses, because they promise you something out of the ordinary.

There's also the whole concept of circus performers having gone to places and seen things and having done stuff that most of us couldn't even begin to dream of which makes it exciting—and the idea that it's a bunch of otherwise-misfits coming together to form this whole new entity society can't get enough of. (And who doesn't like an underdog story?)

It's interesting that you should call it a "mirage", though. Made me think of the fact that the circus probably has a lot of unflattering behind-the-scenes moments, like cleaning up elephant poop or washing their dirty costumes. XD

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Post by meadhbh » 02 May 2018, 11:03

I haven't been to the circus in years, although there are some very cute pictures of me as a child with large snakes wrapped around me. I think Cirque du Soleil is probably the closest I've come, and even that was maybe four or five years ago. What's so appealing though about stories with a circus performer as the protagonist is the sense of otherness, of getting a chance to explore a life outside our own. I think most people probably dream of running away with the circus at some point in their life, so these books capitalise pn that escapist fantasy to a degree.

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Post by euriaokoli55 » 02 May 2018, 16:07

When I think of a circus life, i think its a kind of life where you show your talents without fear. It entertains the people. I myself, I enjoy it a lot. Sometimes, I think that they use spiritual powers lol, but then I like it the more. It isn't something that should be done always otherwise people see it as a nuisance.

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Post by love_b00ks » 02 May 2018, 19:41

I think the Circus is a world of its own. I mean, it is like there but actually isn't, like what you said, a mirage. One time it is there, the next time it is no more. It us such an arbitrary way of living, something I cannot really appreciate. I rarely go to the circus and if I would, nowadays, it would probably not because I chose but because I had no choice. It is not that I hate it, I just do not appreciate it that much. I am not yet finished with the book but from what I have read so far, I think it shows Circus the way I feel about it. It may be entertaining but it is not real life. It is hallow of reality. I think Duke was not totally happy with it but he had no choice.

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