The Circus Train is an essay of novella length—something for which we have no term. But nevertheless it is meant to stand on its own. Even with the two additional companion essays, The Circus Train is a short book. Its intention is to explore, to argue, and to contemplate. Confronting memory and mortality, Judith Kitchen finds abundance in her own front yard.
The circus—the real thing. Not the carnival, with its tin ear and its come-hither deceptions. Its ferris wheel and the taste of snowcones or funnel cakes. I mean the circus, where acrobats show off their years of practice, or clowns take on personalities of their own. The carnival doesn’t last longer than that last throw of the dart, that last toss of the ring. You walk home with nothing but slum: the spider rings and keychains and finger traps and vampire teeth and fortune fish of the trade. You walk past the charming tricksters—Popeye and Smithy and Little John—who stand there, calling you in, selling the shabby dream to the highest bidder. They dazzle you with the sound of their sugary pitch. Because some things don’t change all that much over time, and the human desire to win something for next to nothing is one of them. To have some good fun being fooled.
Selections from reviews:
“inventive, moving, and all-too-soon ended”
—Stephen Corey, The Georgia Review
“This, I think, is what’s most notable about the text — the accretion of meaning gained, not through linear narrative, but through the space and reverberation of the author’s collection (and recollection) of language, image, and scene.”
-The Los Angeles Review of Books
Judith Kitchen is the author of three other collections of essays, most recently Half in Shade, Coffee House Press. She has also published a novel, a book of poetry, and a book on the work of William Stafford. In addition, she has edited three collections of short nonfiction pieces for W. W. Norton, an anthology of poetry on birds, and is currently working on a collection of selected reviews of poetry from the past twenty-five years. She lives in Port Townsend, WA where she is in the same time zone, but not the same zip code or area code, as her three grandsons. Her interests are, she realizes, somewhat sedentary: reading, writing, movies, watching soccer, eating out. But it’s hard to stay sitting when Messi is dancing his way to a goal. And it’s hard to stay quiet when a good book makes its way into the heart—and thus the inspiration for ovenbirdbooks.
An independent press dedicated to the publication of experimental literary nonfiction