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Quin's Shanghai Circus

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  131 Ratings  ·  21 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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#7 in my Clean Out the Kindle Project.

Naw, I'm just kidding. I can't count be bothered to count. I got a new kindle and the only thing going on it at the moment are things I intend to read. Seriously. For real. Oh, and my favorites, in case I'm really hard up for good material. As well as a short story collection or two, because they work well for waiting rooms and lunches. But that's it. I mean it.

So, there is little doubt that I picked this up for its wonderfully specific title, which had the
Lis Carey
Sep 01, 2013 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
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, favorites
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 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
Apr 28, 2008 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 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 10, 2013 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
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember that I found out about this book from some list of cult books. I obtained a used copy which turned out to previously belonged to the Library of Congress; it is stamped as the Copyright Office copy.

It is a story about a group of characters whose lives you find have all meshed together over a period between the 1920s and the 1960s when the narrative begins "Some twenty years after the end of the war with Japan". All the characters are interesting, sometimes eccentric, people who got suc
Phillip Berrie
I feel that this book, written in the 1970s, is very much a product of its time.

The strength of this book is the weird characters and strange event portrayed. This allowed me to finish the book.

Its weaknesses are the erratic punctuation and lack of dialogue quotation marks. These two things made it very difficult to read.

I was also left mystified by the motivation of the Quin character, which wasn't satisfactorily explained until the end of the book, where they made little difference to the stor
Zoe Brooks
Aug 22, 2013 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 Carro
Felix Zilich
Nov 05, 2011 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
“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
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
Bob Nolin
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
If someone has been kind enough to point you towards the wonderful and largely unknown writer Edward Whittemore, do not start your reading with this, his first novel. He was clearly still getting his feet wet here. Definitely start with "Sinai Tapestry," and then read the other three books in the Jerusalem Quartet. This book is very hard to follow, because the author wanted it to be so. He leaves out names of characters (calling one "the scholar," another "the policeman") instead of telling you ...more
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
Aug 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
Some books improve in your memory, sometimes you were being lazy or kind or trying to win brownie points. Eight months after I read this book, I am reading The Poser. I was trying to think of a recent book I've liked less and I remembered Quinn's .....
The Poser is similar. Intentionally distorted, unpleasant characters that totally lack humor. Situations that lack any empathy. What these writers intended I can't even guess
One positive outcome was seeing I rated this book too highly and I now
Jason Lundberg
Feb 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 14, 2012 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.
Andrew Tattersall
Aug 07, 2015 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.
Aug 22, 2007 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.
Dec 11, 2008 marked it as to-read
Had never heard of this till browsing through goodreads. Sounds interesting!!!
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Alex Popa
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Ahmet Celebiler
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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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