Excerpt from Insect Dreams by Marc Estrin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Insect Dreams

by Marc Estrin

Insect Dreams by Marc Estrin X
Insect Dreams by Marc Estrin
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2002, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2003, 480 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


"No trapeze acts!" he would bluster, and in this emblem he would subsume all other parodies of human freedom. "A family of acrobats high in the roof, balancing, swinging, hanging by the hair from their children’s teeth! What a betrayal of humanity, what a mockery of holy Mother Nature!" The image enraged him. Did he imagine his own exhibits might better depict her maternal labors?

Leo Kongee, the "Man with No Nerves," rammed hatpins through his tongue and pounded spikes into his nose. Godina and Apexia, the "Pinhead Sisters," joked with horrified viewers about the angels dancing inside their skulls. Gerda Schlobß, "the Homeliest Woman in the World," flirted with men and teased their female companions about their sexual competence. There was Josef/Josefina, "Man or Woman, Who Is To Say?," and Serpentina, "The Girl with No Bones." Glotzaügiger Otto could pop both his eyes right out of his face. And Steinkopf Bill charged ten groschen for pieces of the rocks broken on his head.


December 17, 1915, brought Amadeus more to celebrate than Beethoven’s birthday---which is what he was doing in the semidarkness of the four-o’clock hour when Anna Marie Schleßweg’s crew pulled its wagon into the cluster of wagons now inhabiting a huge empty lot in Vienna’s Meidling district. The trailer marked "Büro" was lit by lantern light. Anna Marie knocked resolutely.

"Jah. Come in."

"Herr Hoffnung?"

"i?"

"Do you have a moment?" Four of them peeked through the door. "We’d like to show you something."

"I don’t need it. I don’t need any more. I have enough problems. Basta. Genug. But come in already nevertheless, and close the door. You’re letting out the heat."

"What is that awful noise?" asked one of the men---from well behind.

"Herr Klofac!" scolded Anna Marie, their doughty leader.

"That, my impolitic but honest friend, is what a deaf man hears inside his fortress skull."

Amadeus removed the needle from side three of Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge. "It’s my little birthday celebration. I play it every year."

"Happy birthday!"

"To Beethoven, not to me. Did you sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him?"

"No. We drove all the way from Prague...." Anna Marie began to explain.

"Without singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Beethoven? Did you sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him yesterday?"

"I thought today was---"

"Today and yesterday. He has two birthdays. Extraordinary people do extraordinary things. That’s what Zirkus Schwänze der Hoffnung is all about. What have you got to show me?"

"I thought you said you had enough," Klofac pointed out.

"I’ll make an exception. I like honest, boorish people."

"My men will bring in the---crate."

And Kramar, Klofac, and Soukup clomped out the door, down three wooden steps into the darkness.

"How old are you, madame?"

"Sixty-three."

"Good. What’s your name?"

"Anna Marie Schleßweg."

"And how old am I?"

"I don’t know. Fifty?"

"Fifty is a good guess. I’m twenty-two."

Crashing and grumping as the three ex-borders chez Gregor grind the crate against the door frame.

"Easy does it, gentlemen. I just finished paying off this trailer."

"Sorry, Herr Hoffnung. Soukup, tip this way a little. Klofac, lift. Okay, now up...easy. Where shall we put it?"

"Here, I’ll move these chairs."

"Watch your fingers."

"There it is. Soukup, open it," directed Frau Schleßweg.

"Not me. You open it."

Amadeus stepped in. "I’ll open it. I’m used to surprises."

But not like this one. Herr Hoffnung was stunned. Three hundred fifty million years swirled up at him from the bottom of the crate. His roach. His Sosnowiec roach come to call. The Great, secret Joy of his recent, and long-departed youth. He had to grip hard on the edge of the crate.

Reprinted from Insect Dreams by Marc Estrin by permission of BlueHen Books, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2002, Marc Estrin. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Beauty in the Broken Places
    Beauty in the Broken Places
    by Allison Pataki
    Ernest Hemingway wrote that we are "strong at the broken places," and Allison Pataki found that to ...
  • Book Jacket
    Love and Other Consolation Prizes
    by Jamie Ford
    Love and Other Consolation Prizes was read and reviewed by 22 BookBrowse members for First ...
  • Book Jacket: The Judge Hunter
    The Judge Hunter
    by Christopher Buckley
    In London 1664, Balthasar de St. Michel or "Balty" has no discernable skills besides pestering his ...
  • Book Jacket: Star of the North
    Star of the North
    by D.B. John
    It's summertime. You're looking for an absorbing thriller while you flop at the beach. ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson

An audacious American epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Clock Dance
    by Anne Tyler

    A delightful novel of one woman's transformative journey, from the best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Family Tabor
    by Cherise Wolas

    Wolas's gorgeously rendered sophomore novel reckons with the nature of the stories we tell ourselves.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win A Place for Us

A Place For Us

A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

H, W H A Problem

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.