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Greatest Shows on Earth: A History of the Circus Hardcover – 1 December 2014

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 ratings

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: REAKTION BOOKS (1 December 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781780233581
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780233581
  • ASIN: 1780233582
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 2.8 x 22 cm
  • Boxed-product Weight: 798 g
  • Customer Reviews: 4.3 out of 5 stars12 customer ratings
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 63,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product description

Review

"A jewel of a publication. . . . Simon writes about the various phases of circus history in a dense, rich prose--enlivened by some superb chapter-headings, quotes, and anecdotes. Here is an eclectic and well-chosen compilation of responses to, and illustrations of, the circus. . . . I enjoyed this book greatly. Linda Simon is clever and a thorough researcher. . . . she writes with a sharp eye for detail and page-turning momentum." --Wavy Gravy "Spectator"

"A whimsical and enlightening history of the circus. . . . Simon does a fine job of exploring the subtexts of the circus. In addition to what is promised--'a living cabinet of wonders, a theatre of the improbable, and even the impossible, an escape from reality'--the circus has always appealed to our baser instincts. . . . Above all, Simon shows how men and women over the centuries have been obsessed with controlling their bodies and, by extension, their minds--and how the spotlight and the 'irresistible burst of applause' were often fatally addictive." --Wavy Gravy "Macleans Magazine"

"Engrossing. . . . It takes a book such as Simon's vividly written and richly illustrated one to give us some inkling of what Emily Dickinson felt when she wrote 'Friday I tasted life. It was a vast morsel. A Circus passed the house--still I feel the red in my mind.'" --Wavy Gravy "Sunday Times"

"Handsomely presented on superior paper and with many illustrations, over half of them in colour. . . . [the book] ranges widely in time and place and evokes its subject with great immediacy. . . . A whirl of chapters on trick-riders, trapeze artists, animals, prodigies, and so forth, sweeps the reader into the atmosphere of the circus. . . . Simon enlivens history with roughly equal helpings of anecdote and philosophical enquiry." --Wavy Gravy "Times Literary Supplement"

"In the age of CGI and editing, the 'fleeting moment of magical spectacle' that the circus represents holds a grip on our popular imagination about as firm as an aerialist's on the trapeze. It's an obsession that is intriguingly documented in Simon's The Greatest Show on Earth . . . its great strength is providing both a strong practical narrative and a considerably interwoven portrait of the related thoughts of artists and writers (and later filmmakers) from the earliest stages of the circus's existence, given, in many cases, the very specific inspiration that the circus provided them." --Wavy Gravy "Daily Beast"

"Like anyone with a hankering for fairs, puppets, and music halls, I adored the world of the circus--and as [this] beautifully illustrated and superbly researched volume makes plain, it is a form of entertainment that has accumulated distinguished devotees." --Wavy Gravy "Daily Mail"

"Our fascination with the fantastic--people and animals doing things most of us simply cannot do--is apparently as old as humankind. Simon offers ancient historical evidence, some from thousands of years before the Common Era, of incredible performers, from dancing Egyptian girls to ceramic Mexican acrobats to depictions of ancient Japanese tumblers. Through an engaging narrative and impressive photos, posters, and famous paintings by Lautrec, Degas, and others, Simon conjures the long and captivating history of the circus. . . . A sweeping look at the ancient fascination with spectacle and how it has evolved over time."--Wavy Gravy "Booklist"

"Simon has achieved a great deal in this book. Often relating circuses to the ways they have been represented in art, she offers detailed descriptions of the basic elements of circus acts. After a fine introduction covering circus history, she devotes chapters to the elements that make up circus performance. . . . This beautifully produced book--with its excellent color reproductions, extensive notes, and useful bibliography--is a must for those interested in popular culture. . . . Essential." --Wavy Gravy "Choice"

"Throughout, Simon demonstrates her understanding that circuses are mystical and complex, full of dazzle and escapism, both social and sexual. . . . Simon brings a learned hand to this bright history of the circus, which emblazons as it preserves the magic."
--Wavy Gravy "Kirkus Reviews"

About the Author

Linda Simon is professor emerita of English at Skidmore College in New York. She is the author of Genuine Reality: A Life of William James, Dark Light: Electricity and Anxiety from the Telegraph to the X-Ray, and Coco Chanel, the last also published by Reaktion Books.

Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
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Arfur Fuxsake
4.0 out of 5 stars great book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 January 2017
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Merel B.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
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3.0 out of 5 stars It'll get the job done.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Join the Circus Like You Wanted to!
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John Cancilla
5.0 out of 5 stars A book for children of all ages! An exciting review of cicus life and lifestyles.
Reviewed in the United States on 24 April 2015
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