Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Circus of Dr. Lao

The Circus of Dr. Lao is a 1935 fantasy book written by Charles G. Finney. The film 7 Faces of Dr. Lao starring Tony Randall is based on this book. This is one of the few cases where I like the movie better, although the book is enjoyable. The film was more of a coherent story, weaving the lives of the characters together as part of a common plot. The book is more a series of vignettes.

my favorite quote:
Piety such as theirs exists no more. Such simple, trusting faith is lost to the world. When you folks here in Abalone worship your god, I understand you do it in a church wired for sound, so that every pleasure automobile, radio-equipped, can, even at sixty miles an hour, hear you at your prayers. But does your god?
from the back of the book:
A classic since its first publication in 1935, The Circus of Dr. Lao is irreverent, licentious, insolent and amusing. Here is a circus of legendary creatures -satyrs, werewolves, mermaids, sea serpents- that is scintillating, intriguing, horrifying and delightful. Between the lines of its imaginative orgies is a profound satirical comment on civilization.
"Just as, in a menagerie, some people will pause to marvel before a cage of an exotic creature from another hemisphere, while others haul their children past, scarecely permitting them a glimpse, so, at the circus, some of us gasp at the trapezists' and the tumblers' feats, and other paying customers move restlessly in their seats and check their fingernails. In a circus we see mostly what we are ready to see. There is no script but chance and hope and sponteneity, and thus it is appropriate that this masterpieve of circus literature describes an imaginary circus, not a real one. No circus ought to be too "real"." -from Edward Hoagland's introduction
SF Site concludes, "It's a thought-provoking read and, like Dr. Lao's circus, contains far more depth than its humble surface appears to offer." Strange Horizons closes with this: "The book holds its own today, as it blends in with the exciting changes taking place in imaginative writing. Like Dr. Lao's circus, it is full of magic, and exists outside the boundaries of time." SFF World calls it "Weird, unusual and sadly affecting". Kirkus Reviews says, "just as the absurd circus parade piqued the curiosity of the townsfolk, so page after page, the story piques the curiosity of the reader."

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