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The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 26, 2013
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Wall had the great fortune of realizing the archetypal childhood dream of running away to join the circus when he secured a Fulbright fellowship to do just that. After visiting the nouveau cirque as a college student in Paris, Wall was intrigued by the high cultural regard the French held for the circus as performance art. Wall spent a year in the intensive Ecole Nationale des Arts du Cirque, learning the skills of juggling, tumbling, and clowning. He also researched the origins of the disparate circus arts, from ancient Chinese culture through the Romans until 1798, when a British cavalier pulled together the circus of human and animal feats. The appeal of traditional circus had been on the wane until Cirque du Soleil dropped the animal acts and focused on choreography and human dexterity with spectacle worthy of Las Vegas. Wall chronicles his year of discovery of the history and future of the circus as well as the dramatic personalities and grueling physical training in this behind-the-scenes look at the evolving art of the circus. --Vanessa Bush
“Lovely…There is plenty in The Ordinary Acrobat to set circusphile and circus-skeptic alike to dreaming.”
—The Washington Post
“An exquisite exposition…Proving himself even more adroit verbally than physically, Wall offers a revelatory love letter to the simultaneously ancient and contemporary art of acrobatics, the circus, and its denizens.”
“In this enchanting memoir sprinkled with historical anecdotes, Wall pulls the reader into the world of circus, past and present…his captivating journey of discovery may lead others to consider running away to join one.”
“Wall is a charming guide… [his] appreciation of the circus is deepened by his understanding of its long and distinct history.”
—The New Republic
“Blending cultural history with biography, memoir and travelogue, Wall’s carefully balanced book is, in itself, a successful tightrope traverse.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“If ever you have the urge to run away and join the circus, you can save yourself the trip and still have the thrill of it all by reading The Ordinary Acrobat. Duncan Wall’s adventures as a novitiate in a Parisian circus school are wonderfully entertaining. A beautifully written account of life past and present under the big top.”
—Eric Lax, author of Woody Allen: A Biography
“The Ordinary Acrobat is an incandescent odyssey—personally and historically—into the captivating transnational world of the circus. A fascinating, funny, effervescent story told with great affection.”
—Janet M. Davis, author of Circus Age: Culture and Society Under the American Big Top
“Wall [does] an admirable job of pursuing the circus’s road-show mysteries and endlessly winding paths…it isn’t a conventional memoir, but the circus isn’t a conventional subject, either.”
“Wall is intoxicated and obsessed with the circus, and…it’s infectious.”
“Lively and wide-ranging…Wall’s eye for anecdote, in both past and present, is sharp.”
—The Seattle Times
“Meticulously researched, intensely reported and brightly written, The Ordinary Acrobat…[is] an entertaining, artistic several-hour act that leaves indelible impressions.”
—The Minneapolis Star Tribune
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Top customer reviews
Many thanks to the author!
Duncan Wall has both an impressive erudition and a physical experience of the circus which make the history very lively.
Most recent customer reviews
Duncan Wall wonderfully picks us up and shows us the other side of that magic never-never-land we have known as the traditional circus (for...Read more