Print Reviews

Circus of the Scars

by Jan T. Gregor

Brennan Dalsgard Publishers, Seattle WA

Just put the damn thing down. Gotta write something about it right now.

Phoo. Where do we start here, boys and girls?

Hmm; perhaps the psychotic photo insert in the middle of the damn thing. Lord knows, that’s what everybody around here couldn’t get away from. Like looking at a car crash. To wit: Mr. Lifto, lugging a steam iron with his cock. Lifting ring attached to the head of his pierced pecker.

Heavy shit. Yep. But this is just the tease, as it were.

We’ll do Bile Beer here in a minute, OK? And other stuff too.

This is a thick tome. Almost four hundred pages. Loaded with stuff. Basic premise is that of the Tour Manager spilling his guts. Psychotic Promoter. Human Marvels. Shows graded in shades of how many audience members fainted during the performance. Life out of a tour bus. Crappy hotel rooms. Groupies. A press that was so revolted by the shows that it couldn’t avoid giving them more publicity than they dreamed possible in the beginning. Biographical tidbits detailing the origins of each Human Marvel. A weird interspersing of a certain “Tunchi diary.” Excellent black and white illustrations by Ashleigh Talbot, including a clown face that gradually turns into a devil’s face as the tale progresses. Holy shit, but there’s a lot of stuff in here. All of it just as excellent as can be.

Against the backdrop of some seriously weird goings on, a mundane story of the interactions of everyday people rivets you to the book. Just because you’ve decided to cover your entire body from head to toe in puzzle piece tattoos, doesn’t mean that you’re immune to the common everyday highs and lows of life.

The disparate members of the troupe are examined in light of their reactions to the stresses of being on tour, and having to put up with the shit of a hopelessly egotistical and greedy promoter. Shoved, as they are, like sardines into a can, having to deal with one another on VERY close terms, they live their lives as best they can.

All against the backdrop of a perfectly psychotic show. Old timey sideshow stuff. Creepy. Disgusting. Scary. Deranged. Hideously fascinating.

If you thought this kind of stuff faded away with the last of the carneys in the late ’50s, think again. It’s still alive and well, packing them in from coast to coast and across the Atlantic too.

Consider the Tube, if you will. Among other delightful skills, the guy has taught himself to thread seven feet of surgical tubing into his stomach via his nose. Attached to the exterior end of the tube is a TWO LITER syringe. Load that fucker fulla beer and various other adulterants, and then poosh swoosh, it’s down his hatch. But that’s just for starters. The syringe extracts as well as fills. Let the concoction sit in Tube’s gut for a little while, and then pull it all right back out again into the giant syringe. Yuck. But wait. Take the syringe and shoot a little of Tube’s “Bile Beer” into a mug. Tube and other Marvels quaff the brew as if it’s fine wine. We’re not quite done yet, however. A request goes out to the members of the audience. “Want some?” And by golly they DO. Drink it up folks, it’s good for you. Or something.

Sword swallowing. Body piercing live on stage with pins through your cheeks from one side to the other. Walking up a ladder of swords upon which cucumbers had been earlier diced to verify the sharpness of the swords. Throwing man-made lightning from your body via the effects of a Tesla coil, tempting electrocution in the process. Eating maggots by the handful. Eating broken light bulbs. Oh hell, it goes on and on. Read the fucking book, OK?

The original troupe broke up in the early ’90s, but some of these folks are still out there touring. Catch the show if it comes to your town. If you dare.

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