City of Clowns (Hardcover)
Oscar “Chino” Uribe is a young Peruvian journalist for a local tabloid paper. After the recent death of his philandering father, he must confront the idea of his father’s other family, and how much of his own identity has been shaped by his father’s murky morals. At the same time, he begins to chronicle the life of street clowns, sad characters who populate the violent and corrupt city streets of Lima, and is drawn into their haunting, fantastical world.
This remarkably affecting story by Daniel Alarcón was included in his acclaimed first book, War by Candlelight, and now, in collaboration with artist Sheila Alvarado, it takes on a new, thrilling form. This graphic novel, with its short punches of action and images, its stark contrasts between light and dark, truth and fiction, perfectly corresponds to the tone of Chino’s story. With the city of Lima as a character, and the bold visual language from the story, City of Clowns is moving, menacing, and brilliantly vivid.
Daniel Alarcón is the author of the National Book Award finalist story collection The King Is Always Above the People, the novel At Night We Walk in Circles, which was a finalist for the 2014 PEN-Faulkner Award, as well as the story collection War by Candlelight and the novel Lost City Radio. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Granta, n+1, and Harpers, and in 2010, he was named one of the New Yorker's "20 under 40." He is Executive Producer of Radio Ambulante, and teaches at the Columbia University School of Journalism in New York.
Sheila Alvarado is an artist, illustrator, and author. She lives in Lima, Peru.
"The tale takes on a breathtaking new dimension... Dynamic... [A] haunted atmosphere permeates every page. Alvarado renders Alarcón's source material in stark black and white, a scratchy yet refined style that's full of deep shadows and woodcut-like crosshatching. But it's her composition that truly brings City of Clowns to life. Rather than relying on a typical comic-book grid, Alvarado employs an inventive architecture of panels; some float in fields of negative space, while others are framed as bricks in a wall or sheets drying on a line. At certain points, she abandons panels altogether in favor of a more flowing, expressionist layout. Even her most daring experiments in form, though, succeed in thoughtfully conveying the pensive tone and subtext of Alarcón's meditation on guilt, regret, and forgiveness — and sometimes the gut-punching lack thereof."
“Sheila Alvarado lends visual brilliance to Alarcon’s affecting tale.”
“The story of Chino and his father is told in equal parts narration and flashback, with simple, black and white illustrations by Sheila Alvarado that complement Alarcón's understated yet poignant prose . . . Alarcón writes in simple, conversational language that makes for an easy read while also evoking a sense of intimacy, that quality more often associated with memoirs than fiction. It's that very directness that Alarcón employs to great effect; reading City of Clowns I had the sense that I was being made privy to a story at once profoundly personal and also universal.”
“This graphic-novel adaptation strips the original short story to its essential elements but loses none of the rawness or tension. In stark black and white, Alvarado’s illustrations intensify the sentiment of the text through visual interpretations ranging from literal to purely fantastical. Frequently stunning in their clarity and economy, the illustrations give this already complex story an added layer of richness and depth. Darkly satisfying but with no easy endings.”
Praise for At Night We Walk in Circles
“Wise and engaging . . . [a] layered, gorgeously nuanced work.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Consistently compelling . . . Alarcón’s smoothly polished prose [is] flecked with wit and surprisingly epigraphic phrases . . . with lines that knock the wind out of you.”
—The Washington Post
“Outstanding . . . a work that creates a multilayered world and invites you to enter it.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Masterful . . . a sterling novel . . . brave, thoughtful and astute . . . elegant in its construction, it feels perfectly suited to bring Alarcón’s tremendous talent to a wider audience.”
—The Miami Herald
“Compelling . . . an intellectual puzzle.”
—The Boston Globe