August 26th, 2016

Reading Angela Carter's 'Nights at the Circus': Mignon and the Princess of Abyssinia

Image result for victorian circus poster

Well I have managed to catch up, nay even get past half way, but I must confess to being a little confused over the change of narration, even though this is still a third person/omniscent presence.  I thought I was going to be reading about Fevver's life on the road (across the ceiling of the world, no less), but the book focuses in on the lives of Mignon and the Princess of Abyssinia.  The former is a bruised teen, from a long line of abuse; the latter an orphan with a skill at tiger taming.

This book is at times both unapologetically violent and sexual - to whit the detail of Mignon's terrible ordeals and she seems to live in the 'forever now' (the past too terrible to contemplate; the future too terrible to tell).  However, there is a poetry, a beauty to it, part of Carter's spellbinding way with words, to suggest magic and illusion and slight of hand.  Who would consider that the clowns would be the most violent or that the tiger tamer would have to make love in the dark; her body bearing the vicious scars of the tigers' claws.  Pain and passion is life and Carter serves this up one sugar-salt razor blade at a time.

It is obvious now that I will have to read two Shakespeare plays - A Midsummer Night's Dream & King Lear and Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist.  So far, I like Nights at the Circus infinitely better than Wise Children and I think it won't be long before I start to watch Carnivale.  Really want to get into the feel of the travelling circus from Victorian to Thirties and get a taste as to what was the norm, was was to be expected from the carnies et al.  Comedy & Tragedy. The double-sided coin.