Bryan Hemming

short stories, comment, articles, humour and photography

Life imitating literature

Miguel circus

When I first wrote Old Miguel and The Circus about a decade ago, I was trying to stretch suspension of disbelief to its very outer limit.

Old Miguel’s tale of life in the circus becomes more and more unbelievable as he goes along. When I got as far as writing about the clowns I made a point of being as transparently dishonest as a writer of fiction can be, given that fiction is a lie by its very nature. No self-respecting clown in real life could possibly behave in the way I describe, and nobody could possibly believe they would. Except, of course, the other fictional character in the story, Marlene, the Swiss gallerista. But then, as the writer, I take full, and unreserved, responsibility for that. Then I made the tale even more unbelievable, just to make sure.

But a report in today’s Guardian appears to prove me wrong. Or right, depending on how you look at it. The story entitled UK’s concerned clowns call for end to copycat crime wave left me completely flabbergasted. It seems that life really does imitate art on occasion, and some British clowns, or people masquerading as clowns, have declared war on magical realism. Of course, the difference between masquerading as a clown, and being a clown, is a little bit hazy due to the fact masquerade is the most essential part of clown’s profession. His job is to suspend small children’s disbelief to the extent they pee their pants through laughter, or poo them through fright. What passes for assault and battery in city streets, is regarded as hilarious within the confines of the ring, for some strange reason. But not by all. There is a big enough minority of people terrified of clowns for the condition to have its own name. Coulrophobia is a fear of clowns

But before I knew all this, I’d already come up with the perverse idea of investing my own fictional account of Old Miguel’s circus fable with a tang of credibility, by giving it an apocryphal existence within another story I’m writing.

The location and some of the details have been changed slightly for Pedersen’s Last Dream, where Knut Pedersen relates his circus tale to a waitress in a café, as he seeks shelter from an early morning snowstorm in Oslo’s Grønland. To see it link here: Pedersen’s Last Dream – Eight. If anything, Pedersen makes the story even more unbelievable.

A true childhood experience of mine, involving clowns and a very odd circus, probably inspired the story. That account can be read here: Bring on the clowns.

Maybe, deep down, I’m a coulrophobic in denial.

Copyright © 2013 Bryan Hemming


4 comments on “Life imitating literature

  1. Bryan Hemming
    December 29, 2013

    By funny I mean odd. And by odd I mean creepy. And by creepy I mean disturbing. And by disturbing I mean unnerving. And by unnnerving I mean scary. And by scary I mean dangerous. And by dangerous I mean evil, murderous and totally insane. Clowns, there ought to be a law against them.

    Happy New Year to you and Daniel! May it bring for you what you wish, and may you wish for nothing but happiness.


  2. WordsFallFromMyEyes
    December 28, 2013

    I heard about those copycat clowns. People are bizarre to me in the very fact that they copycat. I know copying is a form of flattering so these people really must like that freaky original clown, but don’t people know that they can never be that original so just let it go? Ah, people…

    Will check out your links. Need a feast of your words 🙂


    • Bryan Hemming
      December 28, 2013

      Putting on a disguise simply to make yourself stand out while preserving your anonymity always seems a little cowardly to me.That there are clowns who go out deliberately to frighten people goes some way to prove my theory.

      It’s a bit like false IDs and pseudonyms on the net, the most insulting comments come from those posting under the cloak of assumed names.

      Having said that, I find clowns funny, and it’s not because of their antics.


      • WordsFallFromMyEyes
        December 29, 2013

        Ha ha! Not because of their antics!!

        Daniel & me watched Stephen King’s “It”. You’d HAVE to have seen that. We both found it enormously creepy… yet credible. And indeed, it’s based on a true story, isn’t it? Shudder.

        You might find clowns funny but I always find them sad. ALWAYS when you look at them close up, that smile is so painted. Their real lips, you can see, are not that happy. I’ve always found them sad. A perfect choice of entertainment, then, for a depressed little girl like me!

        Hey, happy new year, Bryan – you, Anji, & ze Young Man.


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This entry was posted on December 26, 2013 by in Articles, Humour, Novels, Short stories and tagged , , , , , , , .

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