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Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women: Unique, Eccentric and Amazing Entertainers Paperback – November 1, 1998


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Paperback, November 1, 1998
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Noonday Press; 1st Farrar, Straus and Giroux pbk. ed edition (November 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374525706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374525705
  • Product Dimensions: 10.9 x 7.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,168,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A magician himself, the author offers a history of magicians and other performers, including animals trained to do arithmetic and limbless people able to play musical instruments. PW stated the dozens of illustrations alone "are worth the price of the book."
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA A historical compendium of the world's most bizarre and outrageous entertainers by one of the world's great sleight-of-hand artists. Reaching back into history as early as the 16th Century, Jay introduces readers to daredevils, mind readers, talented animals and their trainers, sword swallowers, and other wonders of the past. Some have been geniuses, others charlatans, but all have captured the imagination of their public. Although Jay handles the material unevenly, readers should leave the book with awe of the inventive genius of man, and of the incredible stamina of the human body. This is a delightful book for YAs who have a penchant for the extraordinary. It is full of colorful illustrations, posters, and billboards of yesteryear. Anne Johnson, formerly at St. John's School, Houston
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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It is written with style, wit and humor: a thoroughly engaging work of scholarship.
"rb480"
The book is also very nicely designed; its large wide pages lie flat and there are loads of remarkable illustrations.
bensmomma
If I didn't know Ricky Jay's fine reputation as a magic historian, I'd think this book was a joke.
Al Kihano

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Al Kihano on December 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
You've come to the right place. Buy _Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women_ if you want amazing stories, incredible histories, unbelievable accounts of some of the best acts of the last few centuries.
If I didn't know Ricky Jay's fine reputation as a magic historian, I'd think this book was a joke. The people and acts described are too outlandish, too impressive to be true. But I trust Jay to strike awe into me, and he does so repeatedly and without fail in this book.
The book's illustrations and photographs are marvelous supplements to Jay's smoothly written histories of performers--memory artists, dwarf magicians without arms or legs, women who walk into ovens. This is the quintessential introduction to this bizarre world.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By bensmomma on February 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
In Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women, Ricky Jay takes on the history of oddball performers: men who claimed to cram their entire bodies into quart jars, armless ladies who could paint miniatures holding a brush between their teeth, gentlemen whose specialty was to enter large ovens accompanied by raw meat and exit (unharmed) with fully-cooked steaks, as well as mind readers of all sorts and species (human, pig, and horse).
Organized into chapters by skill by oddball skill, Jay is sometimes able to document such performers back into the 1700s by tracking newspaper reports, handbills, etc., many of which are reproduced in color plates and black-and-white photographs.
Ricky Jay occupies an engaging hole in intellectual space between enthusiast and academic. He is comprehensive in the extreme, but his writing style is anecdotal and he does not go for any elaborate sociological explanation of why such performers exist or what they `mean' to society. He just wants you to have fun, and perhaps to freak you out just a wee bit.
The book is also very nicely designed; its large wide pages lie flat and there are loads of remarkable illustrations. Definitely worth a look!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By MLIS2012 on December 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
As a magician and card wielder Ricky Jay is fascinating to watch as well as listen to. As a writer Mr. Jay also brings his own fascination at the work of others to play and writes a truly well-written, very interesting and enlightening book about the arcane world of many sometimes downright odd entertainers.
Thorough in his presentation of details Mr. Jay's book is well-researched and his appreciation and awe for these unique people makes us quite enthralled as we read page after page about performers such as Le Petomaine, with his unusual ability to produce sounds of musical quality from a most unusual source on his body.
Ricky Jay, besides being fascinating to watch, is also fascinating to read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Hans Castorp VINE VOICE on January 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
Loaded with photos and Mr. Jay's learned commentary, this book must be the best of it's kind, a celebration of what individuals can do, even under the toughest of circumstances. Yes, some of these may seem like "Freak Shows" in circus/carnivals of old,but still these performances are awe-inspiring even today,sometimes hundreds of years later. The most incredible is the severely handicapped Matthew Buchinger, master engraver/artist, who had neither hands nor feet, perhaps neglected among art historians, but revived thanks to Mr. Jay. There are many others here as well, perhaps equally interesting and unusual, but you can be sure that Mr. Buchinger's story is worth the price of admission here!!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
A celebration of the strange in performance, by a man who has made a career out of amassing the most comprehensive collection of stage and vaudeville arcana imaginable. Jay isn't just a brilliant performer: his writing crackles with desert-dry wit, and deep affection -- never, and this is important, condescension -- for his subjects, even for the crackpots and con artists. This is a glorious celebration of performing artists who are wonderful in their sheer oddness, and a paean to all that is uniquely human, and humanly unique. Marvelous; it's one of my favorite books of all time, and more than stands up to multiple re-readings.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Topham on June 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
This wonderful book profiles some of the most unusual entertainers of all times: calculating pigs and acrobatic horses, stone eaters, poison resisters, daredevils, and mind readers. The contents of this meticulously researched and lovingly presented book often boggle the mind, inducing, at times, a wonderment that is nearly stupefying. Profusely illustrated with contemporary broadsides, lithographs, and photographs, the book is also enlivened by JayŐs seemingly inexhaustible knowledge of each performerŐs antecedents, biography, and critical reception. Engrossing from start to finish, but particularly notable for JayŐs account of the controversial career and bizarre death of mind reader Washington Irving Bishop, whose story beggars imagination. Also not to be missed is the final chapter on Joseph Pujol, whose career as Le PŽtomane was based on his ability to create music and sound effects with the least reputable of bodily orifices. A treasure
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "rb480" on September 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
Ricky Jay, card virtuoso, has collecting a fascinating volume dealing with all manner of unusual, exotic, and bizarre performers. It is written with style, wit and humor: a thoroughly engaging work of scholarship. If you are unacquainted with Ricky Jay, let this book be your intro. if you are a fan, you will treasure every moment that you spend reading this remarkable book.
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