Friday, April 27, 2012
Circus of light and darkness, dreams and magic
I haven't mentioned books often in this blog, although they are as central to my life as my jewelry. My childhood revolved around books and my little apartment is lined with books. I find that books show me new worlds, beautiful ideas, the gossamer connections around us and the solid fantasies of what could or could never be.
I recently read Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. I was captivated by the dreamlike images and the weaving of magic and reality. While the characters are interesting and likable, it is the circus itself that captured me. A black and white circus that appears unannounced around the world, opening only at nightfall and lasting until morning. There, reality and magic combine, creating experiences that are hard to say if they were real or not.
The circus, however, is only a setting for a challenge between two magicians, who expand it with ever more amazing features, with delicate frost worlds, illusions, excitement and reflection. One works from a distance,
with careful models; the other is at the center of the circus, disguising her magic as mere illusions.
This is a book worth reading twice. The first time, you discover this beautiful, seductive world. You see a mystery unfold and are drawn in by the characters. The second reading shows how beautifully the story is constructed and how the main characters are often the only ones blind to the true meaning of what is happening. As the book unfolds, the true meaning of their challenge becomes clearer, as does their relationship with their mentors, circus members, each other and the Circus. Some of it is unexpected, some is heartwarming and many are heartbreaking.
The two competing magicians are wonderfully balanced. Marco is meticulous, careful and maintains careful control of his creations. He can also be cold, calculating and manipulative of the people around him. Celia is warm, collaborative and sparkling (perhaps not the best description, but sparkling is the word that comes to my mind when I think of her). However, she also tries to hold on to too much and won't let her creations have a life of their own.
One of the images that most struck me is quite simple and unobtrusive, in the middle of such glorious inventions. Marco is trying to explain the nature of the contest to a friend, even though he hardly understands it himself. He says it is like a balance and the contestants' achievements are placed on the plates and weighed against each other. Therefore, each one must keeping doing more and more, trying to outdo themselves and the other. At this point, the friend asks if the balance won't eventually break from the combined weight. Marco brushes this off, saying that she didn't understand it.
This image of always trying to surpass the other, until we break, seems to me to be at the center of our lives. We are always trying to be more, to do more, to be more that we do break. Instead of always competing, stop and enjoy this dream circus around all of us, called life.