My obsession all started when a friend introduced me to the now-defunct HBO series Carnivàle. The show, which only ran for two seasons, follows Ben Hawkins, a mysterious young man with unearthly talents who joins a traveling circus, and Brother Justin, a creepy evangelist with a dark and twisted soul. The show was created by Daniel Knauf, but has some very David Lynch-like elements, and the cast even includes Michael J. Anderson, who played the "Man from Another Place" on Twin Peaks. I still have two more episodes left to watch before I've completed both seasons, but I'm holding off on watching them for fear of going through withdrawals when it's all over.
The second contributing factor to my fascination with the circus is Sara Gruen's novel, Water for Elephants. The book is narrated by Jacob Jankowski, an elderly man living in a retirement community. The circus has come to town and as the folks at the retirement home watch it set up from across the street, Jankowski is reminded of the wild, wonderful and often disturbing time that he spent traveling with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth during the Great Depression. The novel takes readers on a vivid journey, introducing them to a group of colorful characters including the mercurial animal trainer, August; the breathtaking circus star, Marlena; and the Polish-understanding elephant, Rosie. It's a engaging tale sure to have your heart racing with each page.