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« Bookmarks! Father's Day Review: Lost in Space by Ben Tanzer »

Reviews Wed Jun 17 2015

Father's Day Review: The Most Greatest Traveling Circus with Rad Dad Jonas

With father's day right around the corner, this is a two-part nod to all those writing dads out there. Friday we'll feature Ben Tanzer's book Lost In Space about fatherhood, but first up, today, is a Chicago self-publisher who goes by the one-word moniker Jonas. In the local self-publishing community he is as prolific as James Paterson with his zine Cheer the Eff Up! In the zine's fifth issue, Jonas features a non-fiction essay about fatherhood, reminiscing about his dad and how their relationship has helped shape him into the dad he has recently become himself. Jonas is also a contributor to California-based Rad Dad magazine's Father's Day Issue (2014).

The topic of fatherhood is also prevalent in Jonas's book
The Greatest Most Traveling Circus
, released last year on Sweet Candy Press. The book is a collection of short stories, thematically related to the book's title. He builds microcosms, calling them acts, which are as serious as they are hilarious. Each act carries a consistent voice and stories are easily read in short bursts, great for one's morning commute or morning constitution, or both.

The Greatest.pngThe opening story, the book's namesake, follows a young narrator looking to his uncle for some guidance in life. The young man is told that eventually everyone joins the circus, a cacophony of sound and performances full of animals and men that keeps growing and never stops. The narrator uses this allegory to craft his own meaning of life, always imagining his uncle and relatives joining this circus. It's a shared oral history passed down to the next generation, which is exactly the content Jonas has drawn on for his zines over the years.

These stories are full of metaphors and lessons, with Jonas as a modern day Aesop. In the story The Curse, a bus driver hits and kills a woman, but not before she puts a hex on him. The man befriends the dead woman's son and learns more about past curses the woman has placed. This curse, real or not, prompts the bus driver to live life to the fullest. The underlying message playfully gets to the core of our human need to survive.

In Letters to the Superhero from Elementary School Students, the author tells the story through a child's eyes. We are introduced to Amazing Man, a super hero who has some problems but manages to save a bus full of students from tragedy, through a series of thank you notes the students' teacher forces them to write. "Mrs. Peterson told us to write this letter as homework so I am writing...and why was you wearing a robe? You are supposed to be wearing a cape." The six paragraph story Keep the Ring seems more like a standup joke ending on, "Don't marry a mind reader." Lousy Stinking Elixir of Love tells of a potion that highlights all of the bad qualities in a couple's relationship and ends with a man still tormented via phone calls years after his breakup.

The author keeps the stories lighthearted but injects strong moral content in his work. He offers up a view of society in quick short doses, that gives the reader a break from the mundane.

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Book Club is the literary section of Gapers Block, covering Chicago's authors, poets and literary events. More...

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