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Quin's Shanghai Circus

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  111 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
On a winter's day, some twenty years after the end of the Second World War, a huge, smiling fat man wearing a black bowler hat and a military greatcoat and known as Geraty walked into a bar in the Bronx bearing his name and picked the pocket of a young man named Quin, thereby setting in motion a series of events that was to culminate in the largest funeral procession held ...more
Paperback, 344 pages
Published December 1st 2002 by Old Earth Books (first published 1974)
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Community Reviews

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May 09, 2008 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A fantastic, imaginative story with an unforgettable cast of characters, an intricate plot, and a profound historical context. It's probably unfair to say that in the hands of Pynchon or Murakami this might rank up there as one of the best novels of the 20th century - all the elements are there, but there's just a tiny bit of polish lacking in Whittemore's craft. Ok, yes, it's unfair, because this was an ambitious effort which nearly delivered on all its attendant promises and I'm comparing it t ...more
Aug 14, 2007 Peggy rated it it was amazing
Originally published in the 70s, Whittemore's works have been brought back into print by Old Earth Press, and I'm mighty glad they did. This is a huge, sprawling thicket of a novel, with action, espionage, atrocities, prostitution, pornography, and the oddest cast of characters you'll ever likely run across. Although the story is confusing at first, with each chapter you gain a new layer of understanding. By the end, Whittemore had left me breathless.
Aug 07, 2013 zxvasdf rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, netgalley
It is easy to understand why Whittemore has been compared to contemporary masters such as Pynchon and Vonnegut. It is also easy to understand why his books are overlooked. Whittemore writes a bit like Pynchon, only without the linguistic fireworks. His skill lies in writing a convoluted yet tremendously engaging narrative.

You might be quick-pressed to call Quin's Shanghai Circus magical realism, and you'd be proven wrong after long. Paced like a gumshoe novel, with each "suspect" or "witness" il
Aug 18, 2008 Adam rated it it was amazing
Whittemore in 5 interconnected novels, three of which I have read (only Sinai tapestry reads poorly as a stand alone) presents his gonzo secret history of the 20th century. These books combine magic realism, war stories, gothic horror, tall tales, romantic adventure, allegory, and spy thriller (Whittermore can be placed on that short list of authors who was also a spy or intelligence agent hanging out with Graham Greene, James Tiptree jr./Alice Sheldon, Cordwainer Smith, and Christopher Marlow). ...more
Aug 10, 2013 Sue rated it really liked it
The blurbs compare Whittemore to Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, and Jorge Luis Borges. Well, yes and no. These writers have unique voices, and so does Whittemore. These writers are high style, ditto Whittemore. Whittemore's writing is not quite as polished and elegant, but it is close. In fact, Whittemore is darn good, deserves to be more widely read, and what he may lack in writing when compared to these literary gods he makes up for in the delightful readability of "Quin's Shanghai Circus." Th ...more
“Some twenty years after the end of the war with Japan a freighter arrived in Brooklyn with the largest collection of Japanese pornography ever assembled in a Western tongue.” So begins Quin’s Shanghai Circus, a sprawling, intriguing novel that spans some seven centuries and three continents.

At the center of the story is Quin, a man who was born in Japan, orphaned in Shanghai, and raised in the Bronx. After an encounter with a mysterious stranger in a bar, Quin accompanies his friend Big Gobi—si
Lis Carey
Sep 08, 2013 Lis Carey rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, lit-fic
Quin's Shanghai Circus is a product of the 1970s, written by a man who had an amazing career as a military officer, CIA operative, and manager of a Greek newspaper, among other things. The language is lush, the imagery strange and compelling, the story intricate, and the characters complex.

I'm sorry to say that I didn't actually like it.

A young man named Quin, born in Japan and raised in the Bronx, meets a man named Geraty, who suggests to him that he can learn more about his long-dead parents i
Felix Zilich
Nov 05, 2011 Felix Zilich rated it it was ok
Этого человека звали Герати. Спустя двадцать лет после окончания Второй Мировой он вернулся в Америку и привез с собой самую большую коллекцию японской порнографии. Герати надеялся продать коллекцию какому-нибудь из университетов, но таможня не оценила ее научную значимость и конфисковала весь груз. Осознав крушение своих надежд на безбедную старость, пьяный и усталый Герати отправился в Бронкс, где его ждала вторая цель его путешествия. В небольшом баре на окраинах Бруклина Герати встретил парн ...more
Zoe Brooks
Aug 22, 2013 Zoe Brooks rated it really liked it
Shelves: magic-realism
I was delighted to receive this book from the publishers Open Road Media via Netgalley. Open Road Media specializes in publishing backlist books electronically. Their lists include books like this one which are unavailable in print and which are hard to obtain as a printed book - the cheapest price on for a second-hand paperback is currently 27.47!

One of the great masters of magic realism . . . Tom Robbins? John Irving? Even God Vonnegut—forget ’em—read Whittemore. —Jonathan Carrol
Yzabel Ginsberg
(I got an ebook copy from the publisher through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

This book was a pretty weird one, in that I couldn't honestly tell at first whether I was liking it or not, nor where it was going. At the same time, those very impressions (or lackthereof) may be what contributed to my appreciating it in the end, as paradoxical as it sounds. Reading it, seeing the story unfold, was like working on a jigsaw puzzle whose final picture I didn't know, yet wanted to see no m
Felicity Gibson
Quin’s Shanghai Circus by Edward Whittemore.

This is the story of a man with a career as a military officer, CIA Manager and also, working for a Greek newspaper, among many other things. It is a book about Japan before and during the war; revealing shocking atrocities during the Rape of Nanking. It is a book written by an insightful and talented writer, who uses humour, humanity and compassion throughout the narrative. The language is lush and the imagery strange and compelling. The story is fant
Jason Lundberg
Feb 07, 2009 Jason Lundberg rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, novels
One of the most uniquely original novels I've read in some time. Espionage around World War II, decadent circuses, exile and expatriation, conspiracies, and the barbarities of war. Whittemore's prose style is gorgeous in its simplicity and rhythms, and I could kick myself for not reading his writing earlier. Accomplished, daring, brutal, so good that it's difficult to believe that this was his first novel. Hard to find, but worth it.
Apr 19, 2012 Kiran rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Despite an abundance of striking imagery, the intricate and esoteric plot deprives the novel of a coherent story line. Many of the East Asian historical and cultural references have no context and are therefore difficult to understand. There are also many episodes of vulgarity and ribaldry that seem unnecessary, even though they reflect human behavior accurately.
Aug 22, 2007 Mathew rated it liked it
Having heard so much about Whittemore's Jerusalem Trilogy, I decided to start with this, his first book. It was OK, but didn't meet my expectations. If you're not a fan of fast-paced, stream-of-conciousness writing that has descended from the Beats, don't even bother picking this up.
Andrew Tattersall
Oct 07, 2015 Andrew Tattersall rated it really liked it
Fantastic book taking in pre and post WWII Japan and China and a whole host of subjects. Can't wait now to read the Jerusalem Quartet. The span and the imagination are like an Early David Mitchell or Murikami.
Dec 11, 2008 Jim marked it as to-read
Had never heard of this till browsing through goodreads. Sounds interesting!!!
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Edward Whittemore (1933–1995) graduated from Yale University in 1955 and went on to serve as a Marine officer in Japan and spend ten years as a CIA operative in the Far East, Europe, and the Middle East. In addition to writing fiction, he managed a newspaper in Greece, was employed by a shoe company in Italy, and worked in New York City’s narcotics control office during the administration of Mayor ...more
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