Big Top Typewriter: My Inside Adventures Through the World of Circus
In his latest book, Hammarstrom (Inside the Changing Circus
) claims to be “the only true circus critic in the country—possibly the world.” As he celebrates the industry’s achievements (in pages studded with reproductions of posters and pictures of famous circus acts) and mourns the loss of animal performances and live bands, Hammarstrom’s reverence for the circus shows itself in ecstatic, often nostalgic, descriptions of memorable performances, as when he longs to “relive the glorious afternoon in 1961 under the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. big top at Richmond Virginia, when Boom Boom Browning led the band with a jazzy tingle.” The chapters that fulfill the promise of the subtitle shine, as when Hammarstrom recalls joining the circus for six grueling weeks one summer, or in his detailed description of slipping behind the iron curtain to conduct research about “the great Moscow Circus.” Unfortunately, the narrative is frequently weighed down by the author’s laments concerning publishing disappointments—which include indifferent agents, industry feuds that he feels tarnished his name, shoddy copy editors, and stinging rejections by editors he often names alongside their perceived crimes against him—and an obsession with sales figures and book reviews. While circus fans will be thrilled to hear about close encounters of the Ringling kind, this score-settling memoir juggles many promising themes only to drop some of the balls. (BookLife)
Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly stated the book contained an annotated bibliography, and incorrectly referred to copy editors as copywriters.