Monday, April 18, 2011

Water For Elephants


I recently read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. The book was published in 2006 and has crossed my path many times via the circulation desk at the library. After seeing the movie trailer and thinking it was a potential theater experience, I decided to read the book. Having not read Fiction in well over a year, I was skeptical.

Water for Elephants is not a literary masterpiece but for me it held true entertainment value (more on this in a moment) and painted a visual that I will not soon forget. Few Fiction books do this for me anymore so I was delighted to find myself caught up in the story line and eagerly anticipating my nightly reading. I was sad to see it end, but I must say, the ending was marvelous!

Jacob Jankowski is a ninety or ninety-three year old man (he can’t remember which) in a nursing home recalling memories of himself as a young man during the Depression. For three months he travels with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth as the veterinarian to their menagerie. Some of the language is crude and graphic scenes linger in the mind; however, I think one should expect this when reading details of life on a circus train. Most scenes, though, are tender and clearly show the heart of a young man and an aged man on a passionate journey. I am hoping the movie is fractionally as good.

Circus life has always fascinated me and this is likely why the movie trailer caught my eye. Upon doing some book review research and hearing only good things regarding the book, I decided to give it a read and am so glad I did. For me, it brought back memories of a time in my life (1983-1984) when I applied for and was accepted by the Ringling Brothers Clown College in Sarasota, Florida. Yes, you read that correctly! I have attended the Ringling Brothers Circus no less than eight times in my life as a child, youth, young adult, adult or parent. The most memorable time being front row center ring with tight robe walkers balancing precariously over my head and muzzled dancing bears within a few inches of my knees. I’ve seen greats like Gunther Gable Williams, Lou Jacobs and Bello Nock. I made a complete idiot of myself at one performance by stepping into a folding seat in front of me and getting my ankle trapped in a vise like grip, nearly fainting from the pain and cracking my ankle bone in the process. I will always be mesmerized by the costumes, colors, lights, music, animals and performers of the circus!

So did I go to Clown College? No. Fear and parental consent kept me from pursuing that fleeting dream. But, the clown portrait above is me! Painted by my much older brother in 1985 and hanging in the children’s room at the library, it serves as a reminder of the clown I was and still am at heart. If you look closely, you can find my initials “DR” painted into the folds of the yellow neck piece. Rosie would have been a great clown name don’t you think?