Clowns don’t scare me. I do not see anything insidious hiding behind the face paint and wigs and big floppy shoes. I don’t find them particularly entertaining either. I don’t think much of clowns either way and now I know why. It’s because those clowns are doing it wrong. Clowns are not supposed to be goofy, slapstick, juggling buffoons. They are supposed to be satirical critics of a world that has passed the brink of collapse. I am not afraid of or amused by Bozo, but I will be haunted by Cash, Dosh and Dough.
“Dough knew that clowns made perfect scapegoats, because what’s scarier than a clown? They stand for money and hunger, sex and rage, loss and loneliness, displacement and death. They stand for everything, and they stand for nothing.”
There has been enough buzz about The Gracekeepers by now that I am sure you know it is not really a book about clowns, but they are my favorite characters so you get to hear about them first.
There has been a lot of buzz about this book and so I approached it warily. I was prepared to be underwhelmed. Nope. This is an incredible novel. It is sparse and beautiful and believable. I read this book slowly so I could take frequent breaks to close my eyes and watch the scenes I had just read play against the insides of my eyelids. I picture this world as more beautiful than ours despite how difficult it is to live there.
Land is scarce because the water levels have risen, but nobody is rubbing your nose in it. It is just a matter of course that most of the world is underwater. It doesn’t matter why and anyway it happened so long ago that no one remembers it, or at least they don’t talk about it. Whatever happened happened and this is the way it is now. It is also a matter of course that when a resource is scarce, those that have it have power. So, this bleak new world has its haves, the landlockers, and its have nots, the damplings. Everything is scarce and therefore valuable, but things have values not just as commodities, but also as holy relics. The divine is in everything. I mean, is this great or what? And it gets SO MUCH BETTER. Because there is a floating circus with a patriarchal ringmaster and tattooed shemales and acrobat lovers and those amazing clowns.
And then there is the heartbreaking Callanish serving her self-imposed penance. Callanish who is so used to loneliness that she doesn’t even know that she feels lonely, but who hasn’t forgotten how to hope.
Believe the hype. This book is a treat.