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Lives of the Circus Animals: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 30, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1 edition (September 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060542535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060542535
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,174,013 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

Endearing, aging gay actor Henry Lewse thinks he wants sex and not love, yet he is drawn to Toby, a very good aspiring young actor, who still nurses a breakup with Jessica Doyle's successful playwright brother, Caleb. Fag hag Jessica, meanwhile, can't seem to let herself fall for failed actor Frank, the one man who completely adores her. Ascerbic Times second-string theater critic Kenneth hates his life and, so his therapist suggests, takes it out in his reviews, most recently on Caleb's most recent play. Which brings us to the pistol and Caleb's mother. From Henry to Jessica to her lovable, slightly off-kilter mother, who has (fortunately) very bad aim, Bram gives us characters to love for their humanity and vulnerability from the outset of a sweetly funny and engaging novel that makes the contemporary New York theater scene spring to life in an imaginative unfolding of the interrelationships of fascinating, often eccentric, always less-than-perfect people being themselves. Paula Luedtke
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Brett Benner VINE VOICE on April 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The best way I know how to describe this frothy, light comedy is to say it's "Tales of the City" set in the New York theatre scene. The book runs just a little over the course of a week, with the various characters interconnected, and each chapter moving from one to the next. There's Henry, the older English thespian who's in a smash Broadway play, his love denied assistant Jessie, and her playwright brother Caleb, as well as Caleb's shallow lover Toby. For anyone who has spent time in the Manhattan theatre world or follows it closely, you may find this a fun, campy, nearly melodramatic read. It didn't seem like the same author who had written the fantastic "Dr August" and "Father of Frankenstein" since it has none of the depth of either of those books. However taken separately, it's a breezy read that brims with heart as a valentine to the the New York theatre and it's inhabitants.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joshua L. Vandyne on February 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This was a great book. It was definitely a page turner and had a great fast paced story line. It is about a group of Manhattanites during the course of a few days and their lives in and around plays whether on or off Broadway. I liked the book but at the end I felt like I really didn't get to know the character too well. Christopher Bram wrote another wonderful story but I felt that the story was really lacking character development. Besides Caleb and Jessie Doyle you really have no idea of what the characters went through in the past. Like with the youngest character, Toby, the only thing I really know about him is that he is from Wisconsin...that's it. What kind of life did he have in Wisconsin that would make him move to NYC and start to strip? I liked the book a great deal I just thought that it would have been a better book if the author would have fleshed out the characters a little more.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By I. Sondel VINE VOICE on October 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Master storyteller Christopher Bram, auhtor of "Father of Frankenstein" (which was filmed as "Gods and Monsters"), has delivered a wonderful valentine to Broadway with his latest novel "Lives of the Circus Animals."

With wit and keen observations, Bram populates his story with a rich assortment of New York theatre types - a playwright, a famous actor ("the Hamlet of his generation"), a critic, a producer, a number of agents and a myriad of near-do-wells and seekers of fame.
What starts as a series of disconnected scenes establishing each character, quickly develops into a densely integrated plot which coalesces into a rousing, swiftly paced comedy of manners.
Perhaps Bram's greatest strength as an author is his ability to draw and sustain characters who are three dimensional, who exhibit characteristics both exasperating and endearing, who's misadventures we follow eagerly. "Lives of the Circus Animals" is a feast for lovers of drama and literature.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jak Klinikowski on January 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Admittedly, I was reluctant to give this book a shot. I read, and thoroughly detested, Bram's IN MEMORY OF ANGEL CLAIRE, and I wasn't going to read this offering. I'm extremely glad I reconsidered my decision. Bram's examination of ten days in the lives of an interconnected group of New York "theatre people" was not only insightful it was a delightful, life-affirming reading experience.

The characters met in this book are far from perfect. In fact, they tend to be self-centered and shallow. But they're extremely human, and it's hard not to like them. There is Caleb, a playwright dealing with the failure of his second play after the huge success of his first. The self pity he wallows in makes him, perhaps, the most unsympathetic character in the book.

Along the way we're introduced to Caleb's sister Jessie, an assistant to Broadway star Henry Lewse, and his mother, Molly, a slightly neurotic widow. We also get to know the afore-mentioned Lewse, Toby, a struggling actor and Caleb's discarded boyfriend, Frank an ex-actor in love with Jessie, and Kenneth Prager, a critic for the prestigious New York Times whose reviews have enhanced Lewse's career while helping to destroy Caleb's. All are on a collision course with one another that will have its ultimate denouement at Caleb's self-thrown 41st birthday bash.

I'm not going to beat around the bush. I absolutely adored LIVES OF THE CIRCUS ANIMALS. Bram provides his reader with a deep yet totally entertaining read. This novel is a delightful comedy of errors that never gets bogged down in the psychological exploration of its characters, a feat not easily accomplished in gay literature. BRAVO! Mr. Bram. I give this extremely literary performance five (*****) well deserved stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By revilo456 on January 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This was my first Bram novel, and I will eagerly turn to his earlier work. I loved the New York theater milieu and the skill with which he juggled a large cast of characters. Yes, I balked at some outrageous coincidences early in the book, but I was eating out of the author's hand by the denouement. Bram writes convincing sex scenes of various persuasions and offers a broad cast of characters ranging from a famously out British Shakespearean, to a New York-phobic suburban matron, to the New York Times' No. 2 drama critic ("the buzzard of Off-Broadway"). The whole gang ends up at a beautifully handled party scene that brought to mind "La Regle du Jeu." And Chekhov's famous dictum about the gun on the wall comes into play before the final page. Great fun, with sympathy for all its flawed characters.
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