The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present

Duncan Wall, Author
Duncan Wall. Knopf, $26.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-307-27172-3
Reviewed on: 02/18/2013
Release date: 02/26/2013
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-23873-2
Open Ebook - 250 pages - 978-0-307-96229-4
Paperback - 322 pages - 978-0-307-47226-7
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In this enchanting memoir sprinkled with historical anecdotes, Wall pulls the reader into the world of the circus, past and present. An American, in 2003 he received a Fulbright grant to study the "new circus" in Paris and soon realized that this was a world far removed from the Ringling Brothers. The book follows Wall's schooling in the art and practice of contemporary European circus skills, along with his growing fascination with circus history. As he develops skills in juggling, tumbling, trapeze, and clowning, he inserts background on each form. Wall's conversations with other students, professionals, and circus historians delve into reasons for entering this still-separate life. One of the most striking notes revealed through these is the mystical aspect to the craft felt by circus artists. Until recently born into the life, increasingly circus performers are passionate converts, and Wall shows his respect for them by declining to take his final exam, not for lack of skill but of passion. Wall also offers an amusing, enlightening guide to Paris for circus aficionados, and his captivating journey of discovery may lead others to consider running away to join one. Agent: Jane Chelius, Jane Chelius Literary Agency. (Mar.)
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