CITY OF CLOWNS by Daniel Alarcón

CITY OF CLOWNS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A graphic adaptation of a short story from Alarcón’s debut, War by Candlelight (2005). Larceny, legacy, and Lima, Peru, with illustrations by Alvarado.

Don Hugo was a thief and a cheat, and his sudden death pulls his estranged journalist son, Chino, back into the family’s orbit for the first time in years—since Don Hugo abandoned Chino and his mother for a mistress. Chino takes the current close relationship between his mother and the mistress-turned–common-law wife and her sons, Chino’s half brothers, as a humiliation. After crafting an obituary truncated in favor of his sweet mother, Chino chases a story on street-performing clowns, his research taking him into Lima’s hustle and bustle even as dark ruminations on family and greasepaint take him straight to his true inheritance. Alarcón (At Night We Walk in Circles, 2013, etc.) paints a fascinating Lima teeming with whores, used-nail salesmen, class warfare, corrupt politicians and security guards, workers building houses only to rob them, marching shoeshine boys, and the ever looming clowns, whose garish appearances put them beyond society’s recognition. The flat blacks and stark whites of Alvarado’s art accentuate a noir atmosphere, one color slicing the other into crisp definition as in an etching. Alvarado’s simple backgrounds, flat figures, and heavy outlines sometimes give characters a dioramic pop off the page, though the art rarely wows. The finest illustrations open sections with small, Edward Gorey–like figures depicting Lima’s hoi polloi, the reduced scale enhancing Alvarado’s linework through compaction. Some pages panel imaginatively—delivering narration of Don Hugo’s construction work one word per brick—and the elegantly concise text takes to the graphic treatment nicely, breaking into bouncing boxes that easily tease the gaze along. This quick pacing helps to gloss over some illustrations’ stiff figures and blunted affect.

A swift, fatalistic love letter to Lima, with spirited if inconsistent art.

Pub Date: Nov. 3rd, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-59463-333-1
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2015




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