Sunday, February 8, 2015

Nights at the Circus, part two

I'm making just enough money now from selling tarot cards on eBay (and robotically taking surveys for consumer study companies) that I can afford a small monthly allotment of internet access. Still, I'll be going to the library for large photo uploads or ridiculous Windows upgrades, so I'm not out of the lower classes quite yet.

Every little bit of time helps, not having to trudge through the snow to the library every day (or to work; thanks to global warming, I've been able to bike most days this winter) allows me to actually get housework done, make more artwork or even catch up on my piles of books that need to be read.


I've just finished part two of Nights at the Circus. As I anticipated, Angela Carter shifts narrative gears completely, telling this part of the story in third-person, but switching to first-person whenever a character comes into focus. Setting the tone for this section, she opens up with a Russian Grandmother who starts to tell a story to her grandson, then stops completely out of indifference. Her role in the story itself disappears, but she is always in the background, keeping the stove going.

Our intrepid reporter Jack Walser starts out as another narrator, through his typed reports back to the American newspaper that is paying him to become an embedded circus clown, then loses his ability to type due to an injury. It's an interesting switch, trading the "hero" of the story for various female members of the circus, giving them small narratives. These little stories give them a bit of power over the audience (as Fevvers' story did in the first part), and an ability to be independent in a masculine world.

Along side the sexual role reversal, the circus animals themselves appear to be the ones actually running the circus. The U.S.-flag-bedecked owner Colonel Kearney relies on his oracular pig (shades of Lloyd Alexander?) to make major business decisions, dancing tigers become jealous of human performers and the entire monkey troop leaves after renegotiating their own contract.

All this topsy-turvey gradually creeps up on the reader, leading up to a final night between Fevvers and one of her Russian royal admirers that concludes with a surreal passage involving Faberge eggs. I expect this will lead the story back to focus on her again for the last part....

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