Jay's Journal of Anomalies BOOK review [Ricky Jay]

Book Reviews
Jay's Journal of Anomalies BOOK review [Ricky Jay]
Sep 12, 2001, 00:36

JAY'S JOURNAL OF ANOMALIES by Ricky Jay; Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2001

What can you say about Ricky Jay? That he's the best historian of magic in the world? That he's the best card sharp alive? That his talent is wasted in all those David Mamet films? All of these things are probably true. For those of you not familiar with Jay, he made his name as a magician and historian of magic through numerous illustrious appearances, events, and books (most noteably, the tragically out of print Cards as Weapons, a manual for throwing playing cards that has to be the best of its kind. His performance (that should be missed for neither love nor money) makes its slow way around the country from time to time and goes under the name “Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants.” But most immediately relevant, from 1994 to 2000, he published an irregular magazine called Jay's Journal of Anomalies. These journals, long available only on eBay for exorbitant sums of money, have now been collected into one, exquisitely designed volume for the utter and abject pleasure of the reader. The Journal can be thought of as an extension of Jay's last project, Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women, in that its primary goal is to provide brief expositions on anomalous people/things—for example, intellectual dogs, nose amputations, and slight of hand artists—and place them in some sort of historical context. Jay's writing is funny, but far from glib. It's apparent that he holds his subjects in high-reverence. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the whole project is that the information and the numerous reprints, photos, and diagrams all come from Jay's vast personal collection. Reading the book is sure to give you a strong dose of “If-only-he-was-my-friend-I-could-go-and-play-with-his-stuff” syndrome, but also make you wonder what gems Jay is actually hiding from us. The Journal doesn't come cheap (the books elaborate design jacks the price up to a hefty $40) but for anyone who cultivates the bizarre and loves the magician/trixter underground, this book is a must.

-Jason Cons

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