Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘circus’ Category

Circus mermaids and freaks, Coney Island sideshows, and a traveling circus and carnival take center stage in this trio of literary novels that we read over the summer. Wondrous and horrific by turn, these stories will have you turning their pages well past the witching hour.

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler. St. Martin’s Press, 2015. Hardcover, $26.99.

The Book of SpeculationErika Swyler’s The Book of Speculation is a suspenseful novel that combines some of our favorite things — traveling shows, sideshow performers, mermaids, family secrets and rare books. The rare book is the 17th century log of a traveling circus which the narrator receives in the mail from a stranger along with a mysterious message: “A name inside it–Verona Bonn–led me to believe it might be of interest to your family.” The women in Simon Watson’s family, including his mother and grandmother, were circus mermaids who drowned, always on July 24. The novel alternates between the magical tale of Simon’s ancestors documented in the logbook and his present life on Long Island, where he is in danger of losing both his job as a librarian and his family’s historic home. As the date of his mother’s death approaches, Simon becomes convinced that his sister, who ran off with a carnival, is doomed to drown as well. Can the revelation of a family secret save them both?

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman. Scribner, 2014. Hardcover, $27.99; Paperback $16.00.

Museum of Extraordinary ThingsCoralie, the enchanting heroine of Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things, was born with webs between her fingers. Pressed to perform as a “human mermaid” in her father’s museum of freaks and curiosities in early 20th century Coney Island, she escapes after hours by swimming the Hudson River. Sightings of “a sea monster” become a tabloid mystery. Coralie’s story unfolds parallel with that of Eddie Cohen, a Jewish immigrant living on the Lower East Side who works as a newspaper photographer and fishes the river for his supper. It’s clear that their worlds are going to intersect and they are destined to fall in love, but that doesn’t lessen the allure. First published in 2014, Hoffman’s novel was on the New York Times bestseller list and was the Long Island Reads selection for 2015. Set in 1911, the year of both Manhattan’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and Coney Island’s Dreamland Fire, the story has an authentic ring to it. Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson was among the early readers of the manuscript.

Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry. Ecco/HarperCollins, 2015. Hardcover, $26.99.

Church of MarvelsThe Church of Marvels of the novel’s title is an 1890’s Coney Island sideshow, but the sideshow has burned to the ground and its proprietor Friendship Willingbird Church is dead before the book begins. Her twin daughters Belle, a beautiful contortionist and sword swallower, has fled to Manhattan, while Odile, who was born with a curvature of the spine, struggles to make a living as the Target Girl on Coney’s Wheel of Death. Initially, we were disappointed the novel did not have more scenes set in Coney Island or the sideshow, as we had anticipated. Leslie Parry’s exquisite prose and the surprising twists and turns of the narrative won us over. Odile’s quest to find her missing sister takes us inside the lunatic asylum on Blackwell’s Island and the tenements and opium dens of the Lower East Side before circling back home to Coney Island.

Related posts on ATZ…

May 17, 2015: Summer Reading: Undertow by Michael Buckley

December 1, 2014: Autumn Reading: Ward Hall – King of the Sideshow!

November 22, 2014: Autumn Reading: The Brooklyn Theatre Index of Coney Island, Brighton Beach & Manhattan Beach

November 10, 2014: Autumn Reading: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island

Read Full Post »

Jim Hand Show Painter

Signs by Show Painter Jim Hand via Facebook.com/Circuspainter

Florida-based show painter Jim Hand is (forgive the pun) an old hand at painting signs and banners for circuses and sideshows including Hall & Christ’s World of Wonders. Over the weekend he posted these photos on his Facebook page with the following pitch that quickly gathered a tip of interested customers.

I been ‘thinking” of doing this for along time….TODAY was THE DAY……I started cleaning out my storage sheds and the old truck in my yard…..Man -o-man some of this stuff hasn’t seen the light of day for YEARS……

I have been saving (hoarding ?) this stuff thinking I might need that piece ‘some day’….

EBAY HERE I COME !!! It’s time to let all my treasures go….But FIRST I will post a picture here on my page to see if any of you has space in your shed for something you “Might need someday”

PM me if you have any interest….

Jim Hand Show Painter

Sideshow Signage by Show Painter Jim Hand via Facebook.com/Circuspainter

Related posts on ATZ…

December 1, 2014: Autumn Reading: Ward Hall – King of the Sideshow!

June 27, 2013: Photo Album: The Front of the Show at Meadowlands Fair

February 4, 2013: Rare & Vintage: Girl to Gorilla Sideshow Banner

November 4, 2011: Up for Auction: Ringling Bros Circus Side Show Poster

Read Full Post »

Bindlestiff Family Cirkus

Ringmistress Philomena and Kinko the Clown of Bindlestiff Family Cirkus via Facebook

Bindlestiff (BIN-dl-stif) noun. A hobo who carries a bundle of bedding and other possessions. From English bindle (bundle) + stiff (tramp).

Tonight through Sunday, the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus is bringing their cabaret show – a mix of vaudeville, circus, Wild West, burlesque, and sideshow – to the Brooklyn Lyceum. The variety arts troupe founded by Stephanie Monseu (Ringmistress Philomena) and Keith Nelson (Kinko the Clown) is celebrating their 20th anniversary season.

Bindlestiff Family Cirkus

Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, 1996. Photo via Facebook

Over the past few weeks, they’ve been posting photos from the family album on their Facebook timeline, beginning with this old-timey snapshot from 1996 with some of the many performers who’ve been with the Cirkus. It’s also a reminder of the many venues where we’ve seen the troupe perform, from Coney Island to Rhode Island, from the Bindlestiff’s Palace of Variety on 42nd Street to a Spiegeltent. For a calendar of upcoming events through the spring and summer, visit http://www.bindlestiff.org.

20th Annual Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret, March 13-16, 8pm shows are 18+. $20 advance / $25 door / $10 discount for anyone in circus makeup. Family matinees for all ages on March 15 and 16 at 3pm. $12 / 4 for $40. Info: 1-877-BINDLES. Brooklyn Lyceum, 227 4th Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11215.

Share

Related posts on ATZ…

May 25, 2013: Saturday Matinee: The Wheel House by Acrojou Circus

February 4, 2013: Rare & Vintage: Girl to Gorilla Sideshow Banner

March 3, 2012: Saturday Matinee: Bluto & Popeye, Kings of Coney’s Mardi Gras

February 25, 2012: Video: Happy International Sword Swallowers Day!

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: