Simply put, the best sentence(s) I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without commentary.
white butcher paper
the tongue wrapped
separate from the heart
The Door That Always Opens by Julie Funderburk
Just now I can feel that little quivering of the pen which has always foreshadowed the happy delivery of a good book. --Emile Zola
This is where your lost toys went, the one the dog chewed, the one your mother threw out without asking when you left home, the ones you always wondered about.Orphans of the Carnival, the new novel by Carol Birch, asks us to look beyond the superficial, beneath the skin, below the grotesque. These are particularly pertinent words in this new nation under Trump. We may label the unfamiliar ones among us “freaks,” but aren’t we all deformed in some way or another? Orphans of the Carnival centers around Julia, a 19th-century woman with an “utterly unusual face,” who is put on display in a touring show. The trailer, with its soft carnival music and flickering questions, offers a good tease of the book without giving too much away. In the end, this minute-long video does make me want to “look closer.”
The island says: bring me your lost, your scorned, forgotten masses, bring me your maimed and ridiculous, bring me so much as a finger or a toe and I’ll take you in. Be you ever so grotesque or beauty sublime, it’s all the same to me. Everyone’s allowed in. Doesn’t matter who you were or what your story, doesn’t matter what state you’re in. You could’ve been smashed to smithereens, even your broken bits are welcome here.
London had the best freaks, always had. The Egyptian Hall, the Promenade of Wonders, the Siamese twins, pinheads, midgets, cannibals, giants, living skeletons, the fat, the hairy, the legless, the armless, the noseless, London had seen it all. In the Hall of Ugliness the competition was stiff. But no one had ever seen anything quite like Julia...Pronounced by the most eminent physician of the day to be “a true hybrid wherein the nature of woman presides over that of the brute,” Julia Pastrana stood apart from the other carnival acts. She was fluent in English, French and Spanish, an accomplished musician with an exquisite singing voice, equally at ease riding horseback and turning pirouettes—but all anyone noticed was her utterly unusual face. Alternately vilified and celebrated, Julia toured through New Orleans, New York, London, Berlin, Vienna, and Moscow, often hobknobbing with high society as she made her fame and fortune. Beneath the flashy lights and thunderous applause lies a bright, compassionate young woman who only wants people to see beyond her hairy visage—and perhaps, the chance for love. When Julia visits a mysterious shaman in the back alleys of New Orleans, he gives her a potion and says that she’ll find a man within the year. Sure enough, Julia soon meets Theodore Lent, a boyishly charming showman who catapults Julia onto the global stage. As they travel the world, the two fall into an easy intimacy, but the question of whether Theo truly cares for Julia or if his management is just a gentler form of exploitation lingers heavily with every kind word and soft embrace.
Just one book? Impossible. Narrowing it down to just one shelf of my nearly 40 shelves? Next to impossible. Maybe I could pick just one author out of the dozens who’ve held sway over my imagination for 50 years? Doable, but still difficult. Okay, okay, okay… (takes deep breath, stares long and hard at his library) I’ll choose… David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I could have easily picked ten others from my Dickens shelf (one of the longest in my library), but I’ll settle on this bursting-at-the-seams bildungsroman about a thinly-disguised C.D. as D.C. who makes his way from abused waif to accomplished author over the course of three inches of pressed and bound pages. I am particularly thankful for Dickens’ masterful marriage of plot and character whose happy union always sharpens both my imagination and my pen—never more so than in the personages of Betsey Trotwood, Steerforth, all the Peggotties, Mr. Micawber, Dora, David and, oh, the shudder-worthy Uriah Heep. David Copperfield is a triumph! And God bless us, everyone! Oh wait, that’s from another favorite of mine.