The Aerialist: A Novel

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Overlook Press, 2000 - Fiction - 295 pages
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The dark, seemingly glitzy world of an American traveling circus is the setting for Richard Schmitt's brilliant debut novel The Aerialist.

On the edge of Venice, Florida, lie the winterquarters -- a circus in repose. One day Gary -- who hasn't cared much what sort of job he's had -- finds himself signing on as a circus hand. Everyone has seen or heard of the wirewalker, the trapeze artist, and the clown, but there are others: The "twenty-four-hour man" who arrives in a town first to post arrows that point the way to the lot; the "bullhands" who remove the elephants' excrement out from under their tumultuous bodies; the "butchers" who distract the audience from the wonders on stage so that they might purchase a cotton candy or a plastic ray-gun. Gary becomes instantly familiar with this new life -- a life for which he has abandoned everything and nothing at all.

In story-like chapters, Richard Schmitt describes a hapless, magical existence in an American voice as starkly resonant as that of Richard Ford -- and through his description of Gary's inevitable progression from circus hand to wire-walker, the circus emerges as a symbol of human aspiration.

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User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A gritty, solidly detailed first novel, set among traveling circuses and their world-weary "artists" and workingmen: the best novel of its kind since Edward Hoagland's Cat Man (1955).The episodic and ... Read full review

The aerialist: a novel

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Gary, a hapless high school dropout and runaway, gets a job, almost by accident, as a laborer with a traveling circus. He is quickly seduced by the security of repeated ritual and the closed system ... Read full review


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About the author (2000)

Schmitt is professor of philosophy at Brown University.

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