The Trapeze Diaries is a slight and a good book. Not a slightly good book: a very good book and a very slight book. It consists of only 94 slim pages, some with only one or two lines
Marie Carter, a young woman born in Scotland, now living in Manhattan, has real talent – and more wisdom than many her age (mid-twenties). The wisdom comes, in part, because she lost her father at far too early an age – and he is a large part of this “memoir” in quite surprising ways.
Carter begins, ends and writes in the middle about her dad: "My father was a quiet man. He often disguised his feelings through humor. I feel cheated by his death. I hadn’t really gotten to know him." When the author and her father do spend time together, alone, they seldom speak more than a few words, yet the silence does not appear to make them uncomfortable.
The book, more of a journal than a diary (i.e., more intimate, reflective), revolves around two major themes: adapting the loss of her father (he is still with her) and overcoming her fear to do something extremely daring
- master the trapeze. Although she has no intention of running away and joining the circus, this activity is one that appeals to her immensely. She is initially “scared of heights and of being upside down.” She can’t do a proper headstand. Although, as a child, she was never athletic or daring, somehow she grasps the courage to take on such a formidable task and becomes positively addicted to it. She works out with circus stars and beginners alike and takes yoga on the side. She suffers pains, aches and bruises, and she progresses to yet more tricky, acrobatic maneuvers.
Aside from her courage at tackling something that would intimidate most people, she also has the courage to calmly, no fuss made, change her sexual preference from male to female. Of course, lots of people do this—but people in this reader’s age group (over
forty) would have made much more of a big deal about it, describing it, explaining it, maybe even agonizing a bit. For Carter, this is just a fact of life, something that feels more comfortable. She desires both freedom and commitment, and making these two changes in her life after her father’s death seems to provide both. The Trapeze Diaries provides lessons in courage and in coping.
Another wise woman, Meghan, a yoga instructor, tells Carter: “What is left behind when you die? Not the body, but how people remember you. If you want to be remembered well, while you’re still alive, be a creature of love.”
Marie Carter is also the editor of Word Jig: New Fiction from Scotland and co-editor of
Voices of the City. Her work has appeared quite widely, including in Spectacle, a circus magazine. Carter still studies both trapeze and yoga. Hanging Loose Press, an independent press, publishes a magazine and books.
Several times throughout this slight volume, I wanted a bit more – more detail, more dialogue, more deep feeling, especially about the trapeze end of things. Nevertheless, I think we all need to keep our eyes on this imaginative, bold woman’s writing. I predict she may well have a bright literary future.