On Martha’s Bookshelf: The Night Circus

nightcircus-197x300The book I’m recommending this month is a delicious read, and also has educational components for any wacky tribe members. It’s called The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. The author has a delicious time creating magical realism—painting pictures with words but, paradoxically, creating a wordless response in the reader. The world Morgenstern dreams up is a place of “real magic,” and you can feel the deliciousness of her vision.

In terms of describing magic as I have learned to see it, this book is slightly off kilter. She describes people focusing intensely and struggling hard to make magical things happen. This is perfectly valid fiction and very fun to read, but not exactly an instruction for working wonders in our reality.

If you want a literary source that is also useful instruction; I recommend The Golden Compass books by Philip Pullman. These are ostensibly children’s books but they hold the eerie resonance of truly compelling children’s literature from the Hobbit to Harry Potter. To work magic in Pullman’s fictional world, humans must go into a curiously blank brain space in which they are at the same time paying close attention and not thinking at all. I suggest readingThe Night Circusand The Golden Compass, one after the other. Notice the difference, and the way Pullman’s books feel a little more real than Morgenstern’s. They are both fabulous reads but the comparison is especially interesting.



  1. says

    Martha, I was perusing your ‘Bookshelf’ and couldn’t agree more with your recommendation of Night Circus! Our Artistic Director was so taken by the book, our Professional Aerial Dance company does a regular show called ‘Cirque de Minuet’ inspired by Erin’s novel. Thanks again for your input!

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