Synopses & Reviews
The circus is a world of magic, a place where performers - whether they be people or animals - call forth myths of old. In Night After Night, which relives a performance of The Big Apple Circus, the reader shares the same delight and surprise felt by the audience when the lights go up. Meet Katja Schumann, La Dame du Cirque, who enchants us with her equestrian wizardry and who gave birth to her second child after performing in the evening show; Zamoratte, the contortionist, who squeezes himself whole into a bottle; Anna May, the intuitive performer and seasoned pro, who happens to be a 49-year-old elephant; and Paul Binder, the Ringmaster, who is both master and servant of the spectacle. Diana Cooper spotlights the circus family with spellbinding stories from the performers themselves. Circus is more than mere entertainment: It is a classical art form that blends an immersion in fantasy with consummate skills and traditions. It is the only art form in which varied species work and play as equals. Citing philosophers, poets, and circus lore, Cooper illuminates the special relationship between humans and animals. She views circus as embodying a rich fount of ideas: human/animal coexistence, the beauties of diversity, the permutations of fantasy and reality, our relation to ourselves and the world around us, and notions of what is - and what is not - natural. For centuries circuses have evoked awe, fear, wonder, and joy. As Cooper writes, "We need fantasies, and circus acknowledges that fantasy is reality wildly elaborated, reality in focus". Night After Night captures the poetry of that spirit, pervading and surrounding us with the total magic of circus.
"Seen from across a field at night, with its swags of white lights scalloped from mast to mast against the sky, it looks like an ocean liner far out on the water. Yet it is still a tent. It appears on Monday, in what was an empty field on Sunday. While it's there, it forms the landscape around it in a new way, transforming its meanings just as horses do when they walk into a pasture. A week later, there's an empty field again. The tent is gone, and so is the little village of trucks and trailers that clustered around it as if it were a castle. Did I dream it?" - from Night After Nigh.
Night After Night is an enrapturing meditation on a small, traditional, one-ring circus. Diana Cooper delights us with the realization that circus is more than mere entertainment. It is a splendid classical art form, grounded in venerable skills and traditions, with its deepest sources in the vitality of myth, ritual, fantasy, fear, wonder, laughter, and awe.
Throughout the book, Cooper raises important issues such as human/animal communication and coexistence, permutations of fantasy and reality, the beauties of diversity, and notions about what is, and is not natural. Her love of and respect for the culture of circus - the forms and understandings that enable it to bring joy to all it touches - infuse every page of this literary treasure.
About the Author
Diana Starr Cooper is a graduate of Vassar College and of Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. A writer of prose and poetry, she lives with her family of people and other animals on a farm in Bethany, Connecticut.