cover image Under the Big Top

Under the Big Top

Bruce Feiler. Scribner Book Company, $23 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-684-19758-6

After several years of work and travel abroad, Feiler (Learning to Bow) decided that joining the circus would be a good way to study America, as well as live a long-deferred childhood dream. He was accepted as a clown and spent the eight-month 1993 season with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus, which plays the South and Northeast. With performers from more than a dozen countries, this troupe was truly a melting pot, though most had picked up some of the racism they encountered here. Far from conforming to the image of degenerates, the circus people the author met led rather conventional lives within their restricted world. Feiler admits the humor of clowns is ``silly,'' and few readers are likely to share his admiration for acts like that of a young woman who juggles while hanging by her hair. Generally, however, this warm and affectionate memoir is pleasantly entertaining. Author tour. (June)