Jay's Journal of Anomalies

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September 21, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

When a self-promoting hack like David Blaine gets his own network special just for standing in a block of ice for a few days, you know these are sorry times indeed when it comes to bizarre human feats and magic in general. But character actor, sleight-of-hand artist, and all-around “scholar of the unusual” Ricky Jay chronicles a weirder, stranger era when sideshow curiosities like Toby the Sapient Pig, the Giant Hungarian Schoolboy, and the Little Man of Nuremberg shocked and confounded sensation-hungry audiences with their exploits. In his latest compendium of oddball entertainers, Jay’s Journal of Anomalies (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $40), we learn about armless calligraphers, mathematical dogs, and tightrope-walking fleas, as well as a lesser-known laundry list of assorted quacks, flimflammers, and charlatans of spectacle. Through it all, Jay is a deliciously deadpan tour guide, writing in the wry, haughty style of an amused 18th-century nobleman to whom nothing is shocking, and everything is full of wonder. A-

Jay's Journal of Anomalies

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Ricky Jay
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Jay's Journal of Anomalies

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