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Jay's Journal of Anomalies : Conjurers, Cheats, Hustlers, Hoaxsters, Pranksters, Jokesters, Imposters, Pretenders, Side-Show Showmen, Armless Calligraphers, Mechanical Marvels, Popular Entertainments Hardcover – September 12, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Author and actor Ricky Jay (Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women) gathers four years of his quarterly Jay's Journal of Anomalies in one volume of the same name. An expert on the improbable, Jay trains his curiosity on unusual forms of entertainment and recorded history, and entries include "A Compendium of Giant Children" and "A Verbally Challenging Bestiary." He has unearthed gems like an advertisement for "Miss Silvia, Skandenavian Ceiling Walker" and a centuries-long fascination with the public spectacle of nose amputation. Jay's new one-man show, Ricky Jay on Broadway, opening this spring, and his role in Mamet's forthcoming movie Heist promise publicity for this witty and bizarre collection. Color illus.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Jay is a deliciously deadpan tour guide...to whom nothing is shocking, and everything is full of wonder. -- Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

Ricky Jay is the coolest person currently walking the planet. He's talented, charming and shrewd. -- Mark Luce, San Francisco Chronicle --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (September 12, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374178674
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374178673
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 8.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #760,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
_Jay's Journal of Anomalies_ (Farrar Strauss Giroux) is no cheat, even though it is a production of one of the cleverest sleight of hand tricksters who ever lived. Ricky Jay, author, magician, and actor, continues the theme of his _Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women_, a survey of strange entertainments through the ages. This book contains reproduction of his quarterly publication issued from 1994 to 2000, a periodical famous for its production values, rarity, and expense. The sixteen issues are gathered in one volume here, a good looking oversized book with charming period woodcuts and engravings, amazing tales of very strange human endeavors, and an afterword to bring all the issues up to date. Even at the listed... price this book is therefore an undeniable bargain, and it is good that it is going to have a reach to a larger audience.
For Jay's subjects are so stupefyingly surprising. They almost all have to do with some sort of performance, and the stranger the better. There is a chapter on, of all things, crucifixion for showmanly profit. Tommy Minnock, at the beginning of the twentieth century, gained wildly enthusiastic response from his audiences as, nailed to a cross on the stage in a supposed hypnotic trance, he crooned, "After The Ball Is Over," one of the most popular tunes of the time. "I am told by those who saw me," he wrote "nailed to the cross that I presented a weird but impressive spectacle." Evatima Tardo around the same time was regularly nailed to a cross, suspended there for over two hours. She seldom had volunteers from the crowd who would come up to run the nails through her limbs, so her
assistants had to do so.
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Format: Hardcover
Ricky Jay in not a magician, and would cringe at the term. He is a deceiver. Unlike more convention illustionists, like Copperfield, Jay never asks you to suspend your disbelief. In his live stage shows, he is out to deceive you, and he wants you to know it. He defies the laws of physics before your very eyes in his live stage show, and in this remarkable book, he introduces you to people who have done the same over the centuries. This is not a man you want to play cards with!
In this book, Jay takes you on a journey spanning centuries of some of the most deceptive, fascinating, and truly bizarre characters that have populated the fringes of the conventional world. The characters in this journey are truly bizarre, but truly human. Jay doesn't merely describe their acts. He presents them as real human beings, living in a world all their own. They may seem to be 'freaks' but Jay presents them to you with a dignity and admiration that is rarely seen in this genre.
Jay is as adept at playing games with words as he is with games of cards. Jay has a true love of language, and revels in the poetry of the con man. As a curator of rare books, he loves the history of con men, and other things that we all love to see, if not fall victim to. He describes how we today fall for the same tricks as we did centuries ago.
Jay clearly loves the people who he describes in his book. He introduces you the the people behind the acts. The reader is introduced to these hoaxsters and con artists as real people, living in a real world. He gives them a unique dignity.
Ricky Jay has the gift of a true appreciation for language. He plays the same games with words as he plays with cards. Jay never views his subjects as 'freaks' who are exploited.
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Format: Hardcover
What wasn't quite clear to me when I got this book is that it is exactly what it says it is: a compellation of a quarterly 'newsletter' or journal written by magician Ricky Jay over a period of six years. The newsletter combines Jay's interest in entertainers of the outrageous kind with high quality publication; as he says,"a magazine printed letterpress on mold-made paper, with tipped-in color plates to present the illustrations I cherished with dignity and clarity." Although I have not seen either the original newsletters or the paperback version of the book, I can testify that the hardback retains these fine qualities.
As one might expect given the nature of the project, the quality of individual chapters evolves with time. Each chapter of the book is one volume of the newletter, preserved with the original masthead; the first few chapters show Jay warming to his subject. Chapter one, on trained dogs, is only 6 pages long; Chapter two, on Edward Bright and other early "Fattest Man/Woman/Child" is eight pages. Honestly, these opening chapters did not particularly interest me. But then the topics became more interesting to me and Jay seemed to 'hit his stride'--the final chapter, on the Amazing Chess Automaton, is twice the length of the first. Nonetheless, I still found the book a bit uneven--the chapter on bowling begins superbly, with a short description of Matthew Buchinger, born in 1674 who became a bowling wizard in spite of having neither arms nor legs. But after a single paragraph and picture, this singular character is not mentioned again.
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