Letter to the Impresario

Dear  ___________ :

Strange to think, I do not even know your name, though I worked with you so often toward the end, when professional fasting fell out of vogue.  I must tell you, though, that I was surprised that you did not come, even once, when the Hunger Artist had signed up with the circus and was placed outside before the animals.   His powers had become, quite simply, awesome. 

You were right, of course, about how to sustain the public’s interest.   The key is showmanship.  As you know, my job, as a visual artist, was to dramatize the spirit in conflict with the body.  With the Hunger Artist, this was evidenced in his eyes and in particular facial expressions and body postures.  To find the perfect contrast between one's will and the posture of a body suffering extreme hunger was my goal.  People did come, even after all the other artists had failed.  I attribute this entirely to your skill and knowledge of the limits of entertainment, especially as it relates to matters of art. 

After the Hunger Artist died (who knows how long he actually went without food—they stopped counting after 57 days), they buried him along with his fouled straw in a heap out in the back, where they had buried the elephant Lulu the day before.  They replaced him with a leopard, and the question about bad location (the Hunger Artist’s argument) was answered post-humously: people flocked to watch the beast pace back and forth, and gorge himself on food.  It was never the act—this is what I learned by watching the leopard.  It was that people wanted to be near to danger while still remaining safe.  It took me a while to realize that it was the threat that their children would stop eating that drove people to see the Hunger Artist.  Once this illusion waned, fasting died along with it.  Pardon the terrible pun.

The leopard recently died of a heart attack and the circus put in a fat baboon and a large scale.   I'm thinking of a career change, and was wondering if you might be available for lunch.



© 2002 Steve Mueske.  All rights reserved. 


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