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Marc Hartzman

Forfatter af American Sideshow

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Series Info/Source: This is a stand alone non-fiction book about Mars. I got a copy of this book through the publisher, Quirk Books, for review.

Content (4/5): This was a well done book with some fun information about Mars. There was a lot of obscure info in here that I had never heard about. I also really enjoyed all the pictures of old newspaper articles and other Mars paraphernalia.

Writing Style (4/5): I think my only complaint is that it was organized by theme rather than timeline. So, for each chapter that started a new theme you would go back to the 1800's (or earlier) and work your way to the present. I think it would have presented a better "story" and been more engaging and easy to follow if it hadn't jumped around the historic timeline so much. Aside from that issue it was written in an entertaining way that was very engaging and humorous at times.

My Summary (4/5): Overall this is a great book for people who want to learn more about Mars, or just like quirky facts in general. It also makes a great coffee table type of book.
… (mere)
krau0098 | Sep 4, 2020 |
Marc Hartzman's The Embalmed Head of Oliver Cromwell: A Memoir is pretty much precisely what the title suggests: a memoir narrated by a decapitated head. Weird, yes, but Hartzman has done his research and manages to tell the story of the afterlives of Cromwell's head in a surprisingly vivid way. Would it have worked just as well as a series of narrative vignettes without the fictional component? For me, yes, since I enjoy books like that, but perhaps not for others. A worthwhile experiment, at any rate.… (mere)
1 stem
JBD1 | Sep 17, 2016 |
This is one of those irresistible books (for me) about human oddities over
the years and contains hundreds of case histories of "freaks" and sideshow
attractions from the last century. Told without hype, with respect and
gentle humor, it was absolutely intriguing. There are, of course, hundreds
of pictures. This book tells the true histories of the people who traveled
across the country and in some cases around the world, working as
"attractions" in various circus sideshows, oddity museums and displays. It
would be extremely difficult to call these people "unfortunate" because
almost every one of them came to grips with their oddities as small children
and came to enjoy their work and travels. There are very few stories of
despair here, but instead I found compassion and courage and humor to be the
basic theme among the lives of these people who were born too soon for
medical advances to help them lead more normal lives. In fact, it wasn't
until I got to the final chapter about the "curiosities" of our own time
that I felt sickened or disgusted. I mean, being born with a parasitic twin
attached to you or without arms and legs is completely different than some
idiot who has had horn implants on his head or who eats light bulbs and
lifts anvils with chains in his nipple piercings just to be different.

This book wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but I found it fascinating.
The author could have left off the last chapter, though. I'll give it a 4.
… (mere)
madamejeanie | 3 andre anmeldelser | Sep 18, 2008 |
I've always found myself unusually drawn to the unusual. This includes, to a great degree, circus folk. So, when I saw a single copy of American Sideshow in the theatre section at the bookstore I immediately honed in. This book is a treasure chest of information about sideshow performers throughout America's history that will never leave my personal library.

American Sideshow gives us short vignettes on, easily, more than a hundred different midway "freaks". But don't let the length of these biographies, most about a page long, fool you into thinking the information is insignificant.

Where else would you find personal and professional information on Fanny Mills, The Ohio Big Foot Girl, who was earning $150 a week in the 1880's. That's 100 yrs before I was making $150 a week at my first job and feeling rich!

And look at the story of Isaac W. Sprague, The Original Thin Man. Born in 1841 he was consistantly loosing weight from the age of 12. He ate regularly and well but was wasting away, dumbfounding his doctors. He worked for his father as a shoemaker until his parents death at which time he began working at a grocery. Once this work became too difficult (he was only in his 20's) he was lucky enough to be offered a job with a sideshow. Here he was making $80/wk in the 1860's. He took a wife and had a family. His condition was finally diagnosed as extreme progressive muscular atrophy. Mr. Sprague's story, unfortunately, ends very much the way that is often assumed of many sideshow performers.

The same, gladly, can't be said for Dick Brisben, The Penguin Boy who may well still be alive and kicking, at least at the time this book was written. Born in the 1940's with feet but no legs and hands but basically no arms, Brisben began his career with the sideshows in 1960. He had been on wellfare until Ward Hall invited him to join his show. The Penquin Boy stayed with Hall for 27 years after which he was able to purchase a home in southern California.

This book contains so many amazing stories about people who could easily have lived lives as "burdens" to society and family but instead took what they had and used it to their advantages.

Marc Hartzman as divided this book into 3 sections. It begins with the "Golden Age" which encompasses 1830's-early 1900's. This was the heyday of Barnum & Bailey. It continues on to the "Silver Age" with the introduction of the Ringling Brothers and eventual downfall of the sideshow as it was known. The final section covers the "Modern Age", the new sideshows.

For me, the final section is the only failing in this book. I see the old-time performers as people who found themselves in unusual circumstances entertaining an audience. As for the modern performers, they are people putting themselves in unusual situations to entertain.

I can't recommend this book enough to anyone with even the slightest interest in this subject. I would also reccommend it to creative writers looking for springboard material.

… (mere)
retropelocin | 3 andre anmeldelser | Jul 19, 2008 |

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