Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Paragon Schnitzophonicia

For some reason i wasn't all that excited to start Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen after reading the reviews about it, because the subject matter didn't sound all that appealing: an old-man protagonist who used to be in the circus back in the depression days (thinking on that i'm not sure why that didn't appeal~i mean back in the day i was fascinated by the Discovery documentary P.T. Barnum: America's Greatest Showman and carried the companion volume around to all stations of the bookstore with me {i couldn't afford to buy it} surreptitiously reading it, until i had absorbed every word, so to say the subject wasn't interesting to me is probably is untrue). But the reviews i read were so positive that i did put it in my (very high) to-be-read pile, and when i finally picked it up, i found i couldn't put it down. I read this its three hundred odd pages in something like a day and a half (it would have been less but the annoyance of work and sleep and other little life details got in the way).
This not-so-pretty tale is told with complete unsentimentality and absolute profundity. As a young man who has just lost his parents to an automobile accident, twenty-three-year old Jacob Jankowski doesn't exactly run away to join the circus, but rather has a bit of a breakdown during his final exams at Cornell Veterinary School, runs from the room and stumbles onto the circus train without having a clue what's he's joined up with "The Flying Squadron" of The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth but of course. Before he knows it he is the circus veterinarian, and, it being the midst of The Great Depression, and him having no other options he decides to go with it.
No romanticism or nostalgiasizing here (which i consider a good thing~and if you really need to know about why elephants and other exotics don't belong in circuses this book might be a good start), but still a tale very well told. I'm still dreaming about these characters.

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