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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The circus in all its glory and seaminess

 
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From the book jacket
Reviewed by Glenn C. Altschuler
from:  philly.com
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
The American Circus
Edited by Susan Weber, Kenneth Ames, and Matthew Wittman
Yale University Press. 472 pp. $65
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In 1835, the citizens of Salem, Mass., assembled en masse on Main Street to watch a parade that marked the start of the unofficial holiday called Circus Day.
 "One pair of eyes seemed hardly sufficient" to take in all the attractions advertised by the troupe, a reporter exclaimed. "Here are two huge elephants, a band of music, and a train of wagons. There is a procession of Circus mummers in the most fantastic garb, mounted upon piebald horses, with trumpets sounding, and clowns chattering on the necks of their steeds."

Invented by the British, the circus (the term refers to the structure housing the activities) acquired a distinctive identity and pride of place in American popular culture in the 19th and 20th centuries. In The American Circus, a volume designed to accompany a fall 2012 exhibition at the Bard Graduate Center in New York, more than a dozen scholars examine the appeal of "The Greatest Show on Earth" in urban and rural settings; its business practices and uses of technology; its attractions (acrobats, elephants, cats, clowns, and calliopes); its decline; and its dark side (cruelty to animals and "freak shows"). Beautifully illustrated, informative, and engaging, The American Circus will delight kids of all ages.
Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/20121113_The_circus_in_all_its_glory_and_seaminess.html#ixzz2C6qMBla9
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