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Memoirs of a Sword Swallower Paperback – January 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 124 pages
  • Publisher: RE/Search Publications; New edition edition (January 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0965046958
  • ISBN-13: 978-0965046954
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A grotesque gallery of portraits of amazing human beings and a fascinating behind-the-scenes revelation of carnival life. -- New York Times

About the Author

Daniel P. Mannix died in 1997, but not before he had written more than 20 books detailing little-known history, mostly of the dark side. He is an unacknowledged American master historian.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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You will enjoy it to the hilt!
Christine Whittington
Thanks to the amazing Side Show school in Coney Island and the remarkable Todd Robbins, I was able to touch the world Daniel Mannix lived.
Andy Wood
I've read the original edition of this enjoyable book many times and owned a copy for years.
George E. Rowe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Christine Whittington on June 2, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mannix, who came to carnival life via the U.S. Naval Academy ("I didn't want to be a naval officer; I wanted to be a witch doctor!") and the Ivy League, brings his sideshow cohorts to life with this lively, witty, and sharp (sorry!) account that exudes a warmth as only a book written by an insider can. Mannix has always wanted to be a magician, and "runs away to the carnival" as an adult, first learning fire-eating when stepping in for fire-eater Flamo the Great who "exploded that night in front of Krinko's Great Combined Carnival Side Shows." He goes on to learn sword swallowing, sharing some of his insider's techniques (don't let the sharp tip touch the pit of your stomach; make sure the hilt doesn't come off and let the blade slide down your gullet.) If you are interested in the body on display, go ahead and read all the excellent academic pomo books about freaks and the "body as discourse," but be sure to read this one, too. It's an absolute gem. You will enjoy it to the hilt!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Andy Wood on May 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is beautifully written and has wonderful photographs. It first came to my attention when BBC radio serialised it on Radio 4. The characters, lifestyle and stories around this lost world of side shows and 'ten in ones' are brought to life by the authors pen. He lived as part of a working troupe and treats his subjects with affection and respect.The reader comes away with a sense of loss, that this world, so often considered murky, or unseemly, has all but gone. There are lessons to be learned on relationships, business and psychology within these pages. The opening sentence is one of the best I have ever read. It got me hooked and as a result of reading this book I actually pursued learning some of the skills mentioned. Thanks to the amazing Side Show school in Coney Island and the remarkable Todd Robbins, I was able to touch the world Daniel Mannix lived.

I reccomend this book unreservedly, it should be required reading for anyone interested in America's recent history and anyone interested in concise, colorful writing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
I have to say this is one of my very favorite books. My reading habits are all across the board, but for the honesty fascinating aspects of Mannix's tale, this book tops my list.
Mannix tells the story of how he became involved in the bizarre and long-gone world of the traditional ten-in-one sideshow. If you are a fan of the history of sideshows and the circus, this is a must-read.
If anyone else has read this book and would like to share some thoughts on it (or other books on sideshows), please e-mail me!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tony Wolf on March 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
Memoirs of a Sword Swallower is something of an underground classic, providing an introduction to the U.S travelling carnival scene during the '40s and '50s. Interested readers might also want to track down "Bed of Nails" by Michael Blondini and Gordon Thomas, which was published in London a few years after "Memoirs" and seems to be heavily cribbed from it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By George E. Rowe on October 31, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read the original edition of this enjoyable book many times and owned a copy for years. However, the original book didn't have all the photo's that are included in this new edition. So, here is pictured truth of just about all the characters involved in this well told story to back up the interesting, fascinating, amusing and often poigant tales of the sideshow freaks. These "genuine" freaks of nature earned top dollar in those days to support college educations for children and families back home. They were supplimented on stage with bizarre entertainers like "The Great Waldo" who dressed in full tails, swallowed and regurgitated living rats. There were of course the sword swallowers, strong men, fortune tellers, fire eaters and other "non freak" acts.

The large Carnivals with their tented theatre revues, burlesque and side shows are rare. In fact, I doubt any of these Carnivals today carry side shows and girl revues anymore. Here is some lost history of those days. You'll find this book most entertaining, gripping and surprising in many ways. I highly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bob Franks on May 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
(Published originally as _STEP RIGHT UP!_)Since my childhood, when Mother read passages to us, this book has captivated me. Its images of the real people of the carnival life, just trying to get along, trying to make a living, with many of the same motivations as you and me, are painted in their true colors. The embarrassment of the author, a genuine fire-eater, burping a tongue of flame at the pharmacy clerk selling him a bottle of olive oil; the cowboy walking out to check on the 'stock' (the family car); the "Impossible Possible," never far from the line between moral and immoral, legal and illegal, working on both sides. What a story of Depression people in a unique business!
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