On Will Elliott’s The Pilo Family Circus

My latest contribution to NPR’s Books We Like is an appreciation of Will Elliott’s The Pilo Family Circus:

Fans have waited more than 20 years for another book from the great Katherine Dunn, whose amazing Geek Love centers on a family of circus freaks and sets the standard for the literary Big Top novel. She’s still working and won’t be rushed, but she does have a recommendation. In her glowing introduction to Australian writer Will Elliott’s gripping debut, The Pilo Family Circus, Dunn offers comparisons to Kafka, Chandler, Swift, Orwell, King and The Three Stooges. The blend may be hard to conceptualize, but Elliott’s story of a young man unwillingly inducted into a lethal clown act mixes horror, satire and slapstick into a brutal but timeless parable.

Jamie, a timid everyman with an arts degree who works as a concierge at a Brisbane gentleman’s club and has arranged his bedroom with an eye toward impressing a cocktail waitress he’s never had the nerve to ask out, nearly runs into a psychotic clown with his car after getting off a shift one night. Soon his apartment is trashed, his roommate Steve is vomiting blood, the clown and his buddies are constantly dropping in to make threats, and both Jamie and Steve are told they must pass an audition — by making the clowns laugh — within 48 hours, or die.

See also Brian Evenson’s interview with Elliott, and the author’s book notes installment.


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