The Circus in Winter, by Cathy Day '91, Earns Strong Early Reviews
July 2, 2004
July 2, 2004, Greencastle, Ind. - "Funny and tough-minded, yet tender and touched with magic: this is a real find." That's what Kirkus Reviews writes of The Circus in Winter, a collection of stories by Cathy Day, assistant professor of English at the College of New Jersey and a 1991 graduate of DePauw University. The book, which has just been published by Harcourt, "spins graceful, elegant circles around the inhabitants of Lima, Indiana -- especially the acrobats, clowns and circus folk of the Great Porter Circus who spent their winters there from 1884 to 1939," according to Publisher's Weekly. "Thanks to finely observed details and lovely prose, each of these stories is a convincing world in miniature, filled with longing and fueled by doubt."
The review continues, "Day, who grew up in a town like Lima and descends from circus folk herself, uses family stories, historical research and archival photographs to weave these enchantments. Though her stories often contain tragedy and violence -- death in childbirth or from floodwater, cancer, circus mishap -- they're also full of beauty."
Library Journal says Day's work is "strongly recommended," noting, "Meticulously researched and graced with a dozen lovely black-and-white historical circus photographs, Day's portrayal of life under and outside the big top is accomplished."
Cathy Day earned her B.A. in English/Creative Writing at DePauw in 1991 and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing at The University of Alabama in 1995. “My book, The Circus in Winter, was born my senior year in Tom Chiarella's senior seminar. I had to write an undergraduate thesis (a 'masterwork' they called it then), and I had no idea what to write about. Tom said, 'You're from that weird circus town, right? Why don't you write about that?'"
Day continues, "I was born in Peru, Indiana, former winter quarters for the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. I grew up listening to stories about the days 'when the circus came to town.' Whenever I told people about Peru -- how my great great uncle had been killed by an elephant, how my neighbors once shot themselves out of cannons -- I usually got strange looks. But my teachers at DePauw knew there was a story there. I don't know if I would have written The Circus in Winter without the encouragement of DePauw faculty members. They taught me to see my hometown with a writer's eyes. For the next twelve years -- through my writing apprenticeship at The University of Alabama, the beginning of my academic teaching career, and quite a few moves across the country -- I wrote steadily, learning my craft and my subject matter. Back in 1991, I remember saying to Tom, 'I have no idea why this interests me so much,' and he said, 'You don't now, but someday you will.' As always, he was right.”