Reading about the circus is not nearly as exciting as seeing it in the flesh. Duh.

I received an Early Reviewers copy of “From Barnum & Bailey to Feld: The Creative Evolution of the Greatest Show on Earth” by Ernest Albrecht. Following is the first book review I have written since my extended adolescence, many years ago.

This is a scholarly book, as well as a labor of love. Ernest Albrecht provides almost too much detail in his accounting of “The Greatest Show on Earth,” how many elephants, how much they cost, how many mirrors in the elephant’s costumes, how often the costumes were laundered, and by whom, etc., etc. The relentless recounting of names and dates, facts and figures, the dizzying quantification of the circus and its evolution was couched in too few anecdotes and explanations or descriptions of the actual circus acts and performers to really hold my interest. Luckily, the format allows for skipping around and reading whatever passages may capture one’s attention. In my case, I read carefully the “1967 to 1984” chapter, looking for that spark to a sentimental childhood memory. Overall, this was an interesting book and the illustrations were delightful. I recommend it to circus enthusiasts and students. The general reader may find it a bit dry.


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