1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 40: Water For Elephants, by Sara Gruen

A tale of love and murder at the circus! Oooooh. Ah, the beauty of dangling modifiers and punch line endings to books that were cheap imitations of horrible romance narratives like The Notebook. So hear it is. Gruen was fascinated by the carnival, bought some books, did some research (as she is very proud to tell us in her own afterward: Way to do some research Sara!). And after learning few carni terms she thought she knew enough to write dialogue reflective of the culture. Yeah… And then by using a dangling modifier hopes to confuse the reader in a “clever” way to employ a “surprise” twist, which is then followed by an uber-happy ending where a 90, or is it 93, year old man runs away to rejoin the circus after finding a carnival manager amazed by his history. With words like “golly” and “swell”, its dialogue seems forced at best, and its characters are all one dimensional. Money hungry, murderous circus manager, sweet, hard-working, moral flawless protagonist, abusive husband, the beautiful victim who needs rescuing. And framing it in the recollections of a aged man in an old age home. So, if that all sounds like your cup of tea… by all means, knock yourself out.


If you liked this: There is no hope for you. However, check out Carnivale is you want to enjoy some writing that is on a par with Stienbeck or McCarthy and deals with depression era carnivals.

Words I thought I’d look up:

Maelstrom: Whirlpool, or a turbulent situation. From the old Dutch a whirl-around + stream.

Plasticizers: And industrial agent that affects the physical properties of a substance to which it was added.

Rheumy: Watery or thin mucus discharged from the eye or nose.

Guile: Cunning and deceitfulness.

Roustabout: Unskilled labourer.

Rubes: Slang for a person who naïve.

Akimbo: With hands on hip.

Percherons: A breed of draft horses.

Calliope: An organ.

Vociferous: Shouting.

Alcove: From the Spanish for vault, it means secluded place.

Votive: Fulfilling vow.

Poultice: Moist substance applied to a wound.

Covenant: from the old French for agree. An agreement.

Colic: A pain in the abdomen, or a serious digestive problem for a horse.

Obelisk: A stone pillar.

Ministrations: Act of supplying, or a religious person’s works.

Mirth: From the Germanic for joy. Happiness.

Consternation: Shocked dismay.

Mottled: Irregular pattern of colours.

Chicory: Coffee additive substitute, dried, roasted, ground root.

Vacillating: Unable to decide, from the Latin to totter.

Dewlaps: Hanging flap of skin on an animal’s neck.

Rutabaga: Food. From the Swedish root + bag.

Bowdlerizing: To remove parts of a literary work that are considered indecent.

Clomps: Thumping sound.

Mercurial: Lively and unpredictable or containing mercury.

Bisque: Shellfish soup.

Sarsaparilla: A tropical vine, a medical root, or a soda pop!

Dromedaries: One-hump camel.

Beleaguered: To annoy or besiege, from the Dutch, to camp around.

Apoplectic: Furious, or displaying symptoms of a stroke.

Dukeys: Shit?

Fetlock: Projection on a horse’s leg.

Foundering: Break down, sink or go lame.

Vehemence: From the Latin for forceful or violent. Meaning with conviction.

Elavil: An antidepressant.

Veritable: Absolute.

Desiccated: Dried, without vitality.

Addled: Befuddled, rot.

Diaphanous: Transparent, or insubstantial.

Coquettishly: Woman who flirts.

Purchase: Move something using a lever.

Valise: Small suitcase.

Meniscus: Upper surface of liquid.

Masticating: Grind to pulp.

Gaggle: A group of geese.

Cacophony: Unpleasant noise.

Frenetic: From the Greek meaning delirium, meaning frantic of frenzy.

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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