Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections
(Page 2 of 2)

The 10,000 Secrets of the Circus : SPANGLE by Gary Jennings (Atheneum: $21.95; 704 pp.)

November 01, 1987|MacDonald Harris | Harris' most recent novel is "Glowstone" (Morrow). and

In the end, none of this matters very much. If you like it, you think it's epic, finely wrought, erudite, richly comic, delightfully bawdy and highly dramatic. "Spangle" is impressive in its sheer mass and richness, in the enthusiasm and energy of its telling, in the obvious pleasure the author takes in his work. We have to remind ourselves that a book more than 700 pages long can't be as finely honed as Voltaire's "Candide," that Milton is full of long, dull passages, and that even Homer nods. "Spangle" starts off well enough, but as the circus acquires more entertainers, acts and animals in Italy and Austria, the story begins to get lost in the masses of detail. The watershed for many readers will be the way foreign languages are handled. Jennings treats us to a goulash of dialogue fragments, terms, and expressions including French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, German, and Magyar. Impressive, but could an aerialist named Levy change his name to LeVie? Not if you know that vie is a feminine noun.

But it does make us want to run away and join the circus. A typical passage--so striking you can't get it out of your mind--occurs early in the novel, when the circus is still in America. Edge, taking a walk outside the Big Top at night, finds the circus' sole elephant posturing in the darkness, setting one foot and then another on a tent stake, sitting on her rump and waggling her front legs. It is some time before he realizes what she is doing. She is rehearsing her act for the next day.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|