Lives of the Circus Animals: A Novel

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9780060542535: Lives of the Circus Animals: A Novel

Critically acclaimed novelist Christopher Bram has written some of his best work about life in the performing arts. In Father of Frankenstein, the basis for the Academy Award-winning movie Gods and Monsters, it was Hollywood in the thirties and fifties. In The Notorious Dr. August: His Real Life and Crimes, it was the strange world of Victorian music and spiritualism. Now, in Lives of the Circus Animals, Bram explores contemporary New York theater, spending several days and nights with a diverse handful of men and women.

There is Caleb Doyle, a hot new playwright whose newest work, Chaos Theory, has just bombed. His sister, Jessie, also loves theater but has no outlet for her talents except to work as the personal assistant to British actor Henry Lewse, "the Hamlet of his generation," while he does a Broadway musical. Henry loves Shakespeare, money, grass, and boys.

Then there's Frank Earp, an ex-actor who courts Jessie and is directing a troupe of acting students in a homemade play. Among the students is Toby Vogler, a nice kid from the Midwest who has a whole other career at night. Toby was once Caleb Doyle's boyfriend.

Overseeing this world like an unhappy god is Kenneth Prager, second-string theater critic for the New York Times.

Leaping from one life to another, one day to the next, the novel throws these people together in a serious comedy about love and work and make-believe. Lives of the Circus Animals is a cross between a Mozart opera and a Preston Sturges movie. A look at theater people who are just like everyone else, only more so, it's a comic celebration of how we all strive to stay sane while living in the shadow of those two impostors, success and failure.

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About the Author:

Christopher Bram is the author of eight other novels, including Gods and Monsters (originally titled Father of Frankenstein), which was made into an Academy Award-winning film. Bram was a 2001 Guggenheim Fellow and received the 2003 Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement. He lives in New York City.

From Publishers Weekly:

Clever stage satire and compassionate character writing distinguish this heady, humorous New York theater novel by the author of The Notorious Mr. August and Father of Frankenstein (which was made into the Academy Award-winning film Gods and Monsters). The title (a Yeats reference) effectively conveys the fondness and gentle derision with which Bram presents his ensemble cast. Henry Lewse is a prominent British actor starring in a musical, but preoccupied with sex. His latest find is Toby Vogler, a good-looking, not terribly bright young man, honored to have the attention of a star, but too earnest to provide full satisfaction ("Why am I such bad sex?" he sobs). Toby is longing for Caleb Doyle, a playwright whose first stage success was followed by the immediate and ignominious failure of his second. Caleb's sister, Jessica, is also a theater enthusiast and works as Henry's assistant. She is loved by Frank Earp, a rather bedraggled director who has come to terms with the limits of his career, directing schoolchildren and off-off-off-Broadway plays (his current show is staged in an apartment). Presiding gloomily over the rest of the cast is Kenneth Prager ("The Buzzard of Off-Broadway"), the Times reviewer who shot down Caleb's play. After much acting, gossip, psychoanalysis and sex (mostly inept), all come together at Caleb's big-finale birthday party. As he proved in Father of Frankenstein, Bram has a sophisticated understanding of celebrity and the intersection of gay and straight worlds. His savvy-and his easy familiarity with the New York theater scene-gives edge and nuance to this witty entertainment.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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