The Honk and Holler Opening Soon by Billie Letts
The Circus In Winter by Cathy Day.
Cold and flu season soon will be upon us. Everyone treasures “snow-days” to
stay warm and cozy, catching up with a great book. But what of “sick-days”? Seemingly
near death days of jumbled thoughts, muddled actions, and CVS generic tonics. Days
you are too sick to even follow day-time TV. What do you read then? A fortunate few who may still have their Archie and Veronica comics, but for everyone else may I suggest the following two short novels. Read them in simultaneously or individually, it matters not. The flat characters are so lacking in dimension the reader can shuffle them like two pinochle decks. A slipstream merger of these two tales might well produce a more intricate, and interesting story.
The Honk and Holler Opening Soon (Guilford Library Book Sale $3.00) is without question the better of the two books. Plot and style are both enjoyable. Our story centers around a small diner owned by a disabled Vietnam Veteran. Life is quiet till a mysterious woman in a short skirt, carrying a three legged dog, emerges from the night.
The characters are predictable and cartoonish as they pass from front cover to last page, but, I liked them. The reader should not hang big expectations on these good folks, the humorous parts are entertaining and that is enough.
The Circus In Winter (Broad Street Books, Middletown, Final Clearance Table $1.98)
outlines the history of the Great Porter Circus. A lesser know big-tent show that toured smaller mid-western towns in the late nineteenth century. The snapped chalk-line of a linear plot does not allow the reader to stray far as they get increasingly bored. How can a circus book be dull? The images of life behind the scenes were very interesting. Details of a post Civil War circus touring America are revealed through biographies of the performers and their families. This information redeemed the book for me. I found the side-show people much more interesting than the star performers. My favorite chapter follows a young man hired to portray a ”Pin-Head.” He marries a delightful woman who performs as both the circus Fat Lady, and “The Zulu Queen.” They and their children to follow establish a “Lost-Tribe,” (discovered apparently by the shows promoter), and toured for three generations.
During long winters, when the show would not tour, the performers who appeared so exotic are shown to be everyday people, just with unusual employment. Each short chapter follows a different performer, making finding your place easy after dozing off in a Day-Quil haze.
Those among us who love books regard an unread stack as “money in the bank.”
These two books are more akin to extra boxes of kleenex, great to have on hand when needed, but only pick them up when on sale.
reviewed by-Doug Mathewson