For a while now, I’ve been playing with this notion of writing a young-adult novel about carnivals and/or amusement parks. As presently conceived, the book would be an inversion of Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” re-mixed with H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth” and set during the American Bicentennial. Just what everybody’s waiting for, I know, but I’m intrigued by the possibilities.
Towards that end, I’ve been doing some preliminary research. There’s certainly good material available online, including:
The best resource, however, has proved to be a book I found in the Berkeley Public Library, “Carnival” by Arthur H. Lewis. In the late 1960s, Lewis spent six months crisscrossing the East Coast through 30 cities and saw some of the most popular midway acts, everything from the legendary “Ape Show,” in which a beautiful woman transforms into a hairy, ravening gorilla right before your very eyes, to “Spaghetti,” a murdered carnie whose family never paid for his burial and whose embalmed cadaver rested for decades in a glass-enclosed coffin in a Laurinburg, NC garage.
Lewis’s narrative is filled with great details that I wouldn’t have been likely to stumble across elsewhere. Like what it’s like to wrestle a chimp for more than ten seconds. Or how a third-generation tap-dancing donniker man spends his days. Or what exactly a jam auction is. Or how an “Ikey Heyman” axle works on a wheel of fortune.
Intrigued? Well, go hustle up a copy of Lewis’s book, or wait until my fictional version is finished.
The only drawback is that this copy of “Carnival” is now overdue. So I guess I had better sit down tomorrow and take some extensive notes.