It interested me particularly that in the circus there was one wistful clown who climbed the high wire after the experts were done, and scared himself and us with his uproariously funny, incredibly maladroit moves up there. Slipping and sliding about, losing his hat, his floppy shoes, and holding on to the wire for dear life, he was actually doing stunts far more difficult than any that had gone on before.This was confirmed, invariably, as he doffed his clown garments one by one and emerged from the woeful little potbellied misfit as the star who headlined the high-wire act. In his tights and glistening bare torso he pulled off his bulbous nose and stood spotlighted on the platform with one arm raised to receive our wildest applause for having led us through our laughter, our fear, to simple awe.I took profound instruction from this hoary circus routine. It was not merely that I, the sniffler with the red nose, would someday in my good time reveal myself to be a superman among men. There was art in the thing, the power of illusion, the mightier power of the reality behind it. What was first true was then false, a man was born from himself. All the problems of my own being were not the truth of me,I knew. In my own eyes I was a man no matter what daily evidence was thrown in my face to the contrary. But that there were ways to dramatize this to an unsuspecting world was the keenness of my understanding. You didn't have to broadcast everything you knew all at once, but could reveal it suspense-fully, and make them first cry out in fear, and make them laugh, and, above all, make them applaud, when they finally saw what an achievement had been yours by taking on so well and accurately the comic being of a little kid.
'The Comic Being of a Little Kid'
The romantic skepticism of E.L. Doctorow's 'World's Fair'