Saturday, May 03, 2008
New Book Due Proclaims American Circus Heyday "Largest Showbiz Industry the World Has Ever Seen" --- Go, USA!
My, does that make me feel good, especially since it's coming from outsiders looking back at our three-ring extravaganzas. I kind of all along felt that without ever trying to confirm my hunches. (Okay, we'll overlook Hollywood in the forties luring into movie houses 90 million people every week.)
The book, due out in June, is so clinically titled -- The Circus: 1870-1950 -- that considering its touted sweep, I would have called it The Circus: 1871-1956, but then I quibble. It bears the work of one (only one?) editor, two authors -- outsiders named Dominique Jando (now a San Francisco resident) and Canadian Linda Granfield -- and a "contributing author," fact checker extraordinaire Fred Dahlinger,Jr., once of the Circus World Museum library.
Pages? 670. Photos? count 'em -- 900, many by the legendary shutter masters.
Price: $200.00. This looks like a monumental. In fact, like a museum. Books of this daunting visualality tend to render me weak and helpless in their presence, and for sheer survival I settle by default for the photos. And what visuals these promise to be! Hard to imagine, in the discriminating vain, 900 top-notch images, although history needs mediocre photography, too.
But, once I can get my hands on a library copy, I will be most eager to see what "they" say, looking back at "us." I wonder if they will understand how we on this side of the Atlantic took all those great acts they sent our way and cast them so innovatively in such spectacular shows ... Europe had the talent, but little presentational pizazz. We never had nearly the talent, but we had showmanship of all angles and spangles --- from Coup-Barnum-Costello to John Ringling North.
[photo above, from Taschen books website: The glory that was Ringling: On the midway, circa 1955, during the John Ringling North era. Do I see Henry Ringling North -- the man with the tie?]