Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Trailer Park Tuesday: The Greatest Show by Michael Downs

Welcome to Trailer Park Tuesday, a showcase of new book trailers and, in a few cases, previews of book-related movies. Unless their last name is Grisham or King, authors will probably never see their trailers on the big screen at the local cineplex. And that's a shame because a lot of hard work goes into producing these short marriages between book and video. So, if you like what you see, please spread the word and help these videos go viral.

If you were to do an archaeological dig of the notoriously large and teetering To-Be-Read tower of books on my desk, in one of the upper geologic layers you'd find a copy of Michael Downs' collection of linked short stories The Greatest Show which recounts, in part, the haunting tragedy of the Hartford, Connecticut circus fire of 1944.  I'm attracted not only to the story (which was told so well in Stewart O'Nan's The Circus Fire) but also to Downs' writing.  Like this from the story "Ania":
At that moment, a flash of orange appeared on the other side of the big top, then rose up the wall of the tent. Ania thought it must be part of the performance, it seemed such a miraculous thing. But the crowd fell quiet, and then a thunder rumbled from all around and someone yelled "Fire!" and the thunder exploded, flames charging up and across the billowing roof of the tent, people rushing from the bleachers, knocking chairs underfoot. A trapeze artist jumped from his platform, and Ania watched him twist through air to the sudden ground.
For his trailer, Downs worked with circus artists who read snippets from the stories.  There's a nasally-pitch to the clown's voice which bothers me, but the rest of the video is great.  The calliope-music soundtrack and the entertaining acrobats reading incongruous sentences is especially effective.  Like when the contortionist says, "I was thirteen when my father told me he once shot a circus elephant.  'Through the eye,' he said."

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