Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dispatch From The Field: Joe's Flying High For This Book

A man will endlessly torture his muscles until they shriek and complain. But he will not give in. He will take a hammer to his ceiling until the neighbors begin to watch from the window and the journalists knock at the door. He will continue to train and hack away at the house until it is finished and the trapeze is in place.

Although his parents thought he was nice and kindhearted and teachers saw him as a good boy, secretly he hated his drab, ordered world and longed for more. Then, when he was fourteen, Edward arrived at his school. Edward exuded the coolness of a latter-day Oscar Wilde. Edward listened to Patti Smith, watched Fassbinder films, knew the writings of Gore Vidal, and, one evening, would kiss him in the moonlight.

Forty years old and fleeing from a life he can no longer handle, he stumbles upon the circus. Not knowing why, only that he must, he gets in his car and follows after it, refusing to listen to the doubts that plague him, determined to build a new home and family.

The Trapeze Artist draws together the past, present, and future of one life to create a work of startling dexterity and vision-a haunting and heartbreaking account of a child, a boy, a man, desperate to free himself from the suffocating weight of his desires, his family, and his grief. It speaks of what it is to grow up gay in a straight world, to be unable to communicate with those you love, of the sweat, passions, and tempers of circus life, and, above all, of the joyous longing to break free, and to swing higher and higher...

The author, Will Davis, is actually a trapeze artist himself .  Here is a performance on aerial silks he did for the launch of Bloomsbury Circus imprint, of which his book is the first.

Joe says:
"The Trapeze Artist follows the life of an unnamed man who works to become an aerialist (that’s a trapeze artist to you and me here in the States). The story takes place during three parts of the narrator’s life: his coming-of-age and coming out in high school, the time he runs away to the circus with Vlad, the trapeze artist who inspires him to become a trapeze artist on his own.

The story is told in three tenses (which is done so seamlessly that it took me a while to notice it) – past, present and future. The present tense covers his time at the circus with Vlad. It’s an interesting approach to the story, and one that really brought it alive for me.

The narrator grew up rather shy with an over-protective mother who pressured her son into her line of work: caring for elderly patients in a retirement home. In school, the narrator meets and eventually becomes friends with the new kid, Edward, who is openly gay, attractive, and brings the narrator out of his shell. As his school life ends, with many changes, the narrator retreats inwardly, but without giving up the lessons he learned from his friendship with Edward.  As an adult, he runs off, rather impulsively, with the circus. It’s a rather dilapidated and sad circus, really, and the narrator is not very welcome and must earn the respect of the gypsies who run the circus.  

The Trapeze Artist is compelling writing, with a story that kept me turning the pages rapidly. It’s about a man in three stages of his life trying to become the man he wanted to become while still getting over the urges, expectations, and disappointments that life piles on… The descriptions of life on the trapeze were detailed and fascinating. The aerialist has always been my favorite act at any circus, and seeing the act through their eyes is very interesting. And it makes an apt metaphor for finding the balance in one’s life."

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