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WALKING ON AIR by Pierre Delattre



Pub Date: May 20th, 1980
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

These are the doings of ""The Great Papouli Circus""--a troupe dedicated to psychic harmony, ""a single body with each act representing one of the seven centers of subtle energy that resonates inside us, yolking us to the cosmos""--as narrated, with sly easy-goingness, by Bob the Grip, troupe clown and stage manager. Papouli and Mamouli are the circus' patriarch and matriarch. Boomie the Boomerang Lady (she throws curved knives that come back to her, pinning her to a board) is the star attraction. Papouli and Mamouli's twin sons have created a Black Hole machine. And the animals--Dad the gorilla, Annie the elephant, Mr. and Mrs. Solomon the chimps--alt have something to contribute by way of exemplary good or bad psychic behavior. Some problems do occasionally arise, of course. For example, Boomie takes a lover, a buried-alive artist named Lazarus, and that's worrisome--because whenever a lover leaves her, Boomie gets careless with the boomerangs and loses a part or two of herself. But the circus' crowning feat and biggest event, if it ever works, will be Mamouli's great dream: to walk on air. Papouli, surprisingly male chauvinist for a mystic, belittles Mamouli's idea, even interrupts her when she's practicing. Finally, however, Mamouli steps off, and Delattre (Tales of a Dalai Lama) plays this elaborate metaphysical trope with such good humor that it never frizzes. Mamouli fails, of course, but while Bob the Grip grieves for her, he isn't really surprised: he's all for gravity and the earth and flesh. Whimsical? Yes. And perhaps a trifle pretentious. Still: a rounded, butter-smooth, slowly-releasing wisdom-pellet that goes down easily.