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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Re: What is so fascinating about circus life?

Post by Disneyland »

Circus life is chosen on account of free will and hobby, by Duke Reynolds. This speaks volumes about it. This is sheer genius! Such a life is insecure and vulnerable to dangers.The various members of circus described in the story add fuel to the fire of our quest against all imperfections and limitations. Also the issue of an ideal society that can lead to more recognition and acceptance of the members comes into picture!

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Post by SpencerVo »

The novel presented the circus crowd in such a refreshing way. They are often regarded either as weirdos or as the misunderstood. Here, they were not framed as victims of exploitative practices. The circus was not their destitute prison but their destined stage.

I personally found their characters so funny and endearing. Some may find these depictions a bit insensitive or even insulting, but the author didn't want us to see them as pitiable. They wanted to be seen as passionate artists and the masters of their own narratives.
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Post by Kishor Rao »

The circus seems like such a happy place to be in. Through this book, I learnt the difficulties that the people working in a circus go through. No, I don't go to circuses now but I used to visit very often. I think Duke is very much happy being the famous sword swallower that he is.

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Post by Radiant3 »

I would say the constant variety of experiences, new places, new people and the excitement of the performances.

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Post by Shrabastee »

1. 'mirage' is the perfect choice of word to describe circus life. I am saying this not only because of the harsh reality this book reveals, but also some documentary I have read in newspapers regarding this topic. There is certainly more than meets the eye to this highly engaging show we watch.
2. To be very honest, I have been to circus only once. I want to experience it at least one more time to see whether my childhood experience differs from that of now. Also, not going to circus will not help the performers who depend upon it for their livelihood.
3. I believe the book provides ample glimpses into the inner workings of circus life. The two examples are where the performers carry on the show despite the sad demise of their fellow workers, because "the show must go on", and that the circus gives free meth to its employees to help them cope.
4. Although he is fairly happy and easygoing about it, and he always lives in the moment, I believe risking life at every breath will not be any person's job of choice. I believe this was not the best, but the optimum choice for Duke.

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Post by DakotaA »

The concept of "circus families" is really interesting. While living in England I did try to go to the visiting circuses when I could (as long as they were animal free) because of how old the tradition is. I loved going to the circus as a kid and it is cool to think that they were the original kind of "rock stars" on tour. However, it is fairly common when you think of circus "folk" to thing of alcoholics, which makes it all kind of sad.
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Post by Hiruni Bhagya 81 »

Though circus life appears to be fun, it's truly hard work.
I've never been to a circus before in my life, but I've enjoyed watching them on television. I hate that animals are sometimes abused in the name of providing people enjoyment.
Circus is a big family for the people who are not the norm in the society, in other words freaks.
Yes, I think he is content being a sword swallower despite the hard life.

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Post by Emily Guerra »

I think circus life is fascinating, seen from afar. Even though I do enjoy going to the circus, I don't think I would ever feel attracted to join the circus. Perhaps because I have a functional and caring family (most of the time) and because I have no special skills like swallowing swords or extreme gymnastics.

I love that there's a whole new world taking place inside that huge tent. Suspense and emotions all over the place, wanting to know what's going to happen next. Of course, it's all beautiful and fun to the spectator's eye since its all put together for entertainment. What I don't like about it, and maybe this is what was also described in the book (from my POV), is the background to the circus life. Remembering the story of P.T. Barnum and what started as a museum, it brings some sadness to my heart as I think how these people were treated before and during circus life. Not as human beings or artists but as keys to entertainment. They were exposed by their physical appearances to make people laugh or to be severely judged by society's norms.

Knowing or believing these people could only exist for that matter, with no family but the other members of the circus. Just living every day and from every show, and not being able to fully enjoy life. Never settling down, and build a life somewhere. To some people might sound like a good idea, and it probably is, for a few days. I can imagine myself living like that forever, and being completely honest, I don't think I ever want to do that. It's not happiness, just moving around performing in every city. Repeating the same act. I kind of feel that's what Duke felt, he was just doing the same over and over, and eventually got bored. Internally missing his family and a decent life.

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Post by Scrawling Pen »

I think the draw of the circus is really about its ability to pull the audience away from reality. During the show, you can see all sorts of things and believe the unbelievable. Life can often become so mundane that we forget the importance of imagination and seeing the world as we did as children. As another note, I am curious as to why the circus seems to have lost popularity over the years.

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Post by 10mile72 »

P0tt3ry wrote:
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.
You're right; Duke was an adrenaline junkie, but that was part of the charm of the story. He had made peace with the fact that his life was one of chasing thrills and taking risks, but without any meaningful, permanent relationships. :techie-studyingbrown:

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Post by 10mile72 »

AmySmiles wrote:
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.
You're right; I think that's the appeal -- it's a totally different, exotic, self-contained world populated with outrageous characters. :techie-studyingbrown:

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Post by 10mile72 »

Sketches_by_Shell wrote:
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.
Funny that you draw the "horror" analogy; the circus has often been linked to horror in books and movies, especially with regard to clowns, which are kind of spooky (I loved Killer Clowns from Outer Space). :techie-studyingbrown:

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Post by 10mile72 »

teacherjh wrote:
03 May 2018, 11:13
I think the allure of the circus is that it seems magical. It is an escape from reality. Also, there is the danger which appeals to thrill-seekers. Lastly, I think Duke goes there because they accept him and become his family.
I agree. Duke has a circus family instead of a real one. It's the trade-off he accepted in life, and made his peace with. I could imagine that a group of people on the road together like that for months at a time would grow very close, almost like a real family. :techie-studyingbrown:

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