RARA-AVIS: 20s month: Jim Tully

From: Jim Stephenson ( jestephenson@ix.netcom.com)
Date: 28 Oct 2002

I'm not quite finished with it ... nevertheless I'd like to pass on comments regarding Jim Tully's *Circus Parade* before "20s month" ends. This book was first published in 1927 by Albert & Charles Boni.

Although called a "novel" in an early paperback printing I have, *Circus Parade* is actually a plotless collection of sketches about people and incidents associated with a small time traveling circus in the early 20th century. These sketches are told in the first person and seem autobiographical; Tully was a circus roustabout and a hobo during his youth, and he may have seen these people and heard these stories. Curiously though, the narrator of these sketches is largely an observer rather than a participant in events.

Tully's prose style is as terse and unsentimental as classic hard-boiled literture. He's not prudish, and writes frankly about sexual matters and unsavory character traits. It's obvious that he has a deep sympathy for the circus performers and laborers--all marginalized members of society--and contempt for the "rubes" that patronize the circus. The latter are always depicted as ignorant, mean-spirited cretins that God put on Earth to be fleeced by the circus. (The antagonism between the circus performers and the patrons erupts in the sketch "Hey Rube!"--easily one of the most amazing descriptions of sustained violence that I've ever read.)

As far as I know everything by Tully is out of print now, but his books do show up in used book stores and on eBay. Keep an eye open for them. Dennis McMillan has a useful website about Tully at http://www.dennismcmillan.com/copy_of_jimtully/ I don't think that they've reprinted any of his works though.
---------- Jim Stephenson Rare Books Cataloger Getty Research Institute 1200 Getty Center Drive Suite 1100 Los Angeles, CA 90049-1688 Telephone: (310) 440-7232 mailto: jestephenson@ix.netcom.com

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