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A Little Night Magic

Erin Morgenstern's 'The Night Circus'

By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Oct. 21, 2011

A Little Night Magic
Photo courtesy of Kelly Davidson

Considering her debut novel's title – The Night Circus – one assumes circuses in general are a topic of interest for Erin Morgenstern.

"I don't actually like the circus," she laughs. "Not in the traditional Barnum & Bailey sort of clowns-and-bears sense. ... My circus isn't even really a circus. It's performance art and installation art, dressed up in striped tents."

As hinted, Morgenstern's elegant and enchanting but darkly dangerous circus is so much more than clowns and bears. Opening at nightfall and closing before dawn, le Cirque des Rêves is the staging ground for an epic battle of invention between two magicians, Celia and Marco. They're the pawns of two elder magicians who have trained them to duel to the death in a contest that grows more complicated when Marco and Celia fall in love.

In The Night Circus (Knopf), Morgenstern creates a supernatural universe from scratch, while also re-creating a bygone era.

"It was always set in late Victorian/early Edwardian in my head," she says. "I've been a longtime fan of that time period in books and movies. I think I had a pretty good ingrained sense of what was appropriate, and then I would kind of keep my fingers crossed and look up things and be disappointed if they were anachronistic. I was very disappointed that I could not have cotton candy.

"But anytime I started to get myself too nitpicky about being accurate, I would remind myself that it is a book about a magic circus, so it's probably okay if I'm not completely accurate. I think it's more a historically flavored novel than a proper historical novel."

The book has already attracted ardent devotees since its publication last month, with fans showing up at readings wearing red scarves in tribute to the signature style of the fictional night circus' fans, known as le rêveurs. And Summit Entertainment, the company that ushered the Twilight series from book to screen, is developing a film adaptation, with Harry Potter producer David Heyman possibly attached. But Morgenstern, in the midst of a whirlwind book tour, isn't troubling herself too much with the details: "I'm sure people are calling other people's people and there are meetings that are then held and rescheduled. I know it's moving in that nicely glacial Hollywood sort of way."

Lit Crawl: Five Things

With Erin Morgenstern, Dominic Smith, Hillary Jordan, Mat Johnson, and Kathleen Flinn Saturday, Oct. 22, 8-8:45pm, Cheer Up Charlie’s (1104 E. Sixth)

Don't Fence Me In: Genre-Bending Fiction

With Erin Morgenstern, Lev Grossman, Thomas Mullen, and Charles Yu

Sunday, Oct. 23, 12:30-1:30pm, House Chamber


In addition to her appearances at the Texas Book Festival, Erin Morgenstern will read at BookPeople on Thursday, Oct. 20, 7:30pm. At 6:30pm, BookPeople will open a night circus on the store's second floor, featuring a fortune teller, contortionist, spiced cider, candied apples, and more.

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