Upgrade to the Flash 9 viewer for enhanced content, including the ability to browse & search through your favorite titles.
Click here to learn more!
When Duncan Wall visited his first nouveau cirque as a college student in Paris, everything about it—the monochromatic costumes, the acrobats singing Simon and Garfunkel, the juggler reciting Proust—hooked him. Soon he was attending circuses two or three nights a week, and soon after that, he entered the intensively competitive training program at France’s École Nationale des Arts du Cirque. The Ordinary Acrobat is a magical, funny, sometimes scary story of what happens when one average American joins a host of gifted—and flexible—international students in a rigorous regimen of tumbling, trapeze, juggling, and clowning. Brimming with surprises, outsized personalities, and plenty of charm, this personal history of how the circus evolved into the thrilling experience it is today delivers all the excitement and pleasure of the circus ring itself.
“Lovely. . . . There is plenty in The Ordinary Acrobat to set circusphile and circus-skeptic alike to dreaming.” —The Washington Post
“Meticulously researched, intensely reported and brightly written. . . . An entertaining, artistic several-hour act that leaves indelible impressions.” —The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A fascinating, funny, effervescent story told with great affection. The Ordinary Acrobat is an incandescent odyssey—personally and historically—into the captivating transnational world of the circus.” —Janet M. Davis, author of Circus Age: Culture and Society Under the American Big Top
“Lively and wide-ranging. . . . Wall’s eye for anecdote, in both past and present, is sharp.” —The Seattle Times
“Wall’s technical descriptions of what happens on a trapeze, or even of how a somersault is turned, make you look afresh at what had previously seemed obvious. And that may be the greatest trick of all.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Wall is a charming guide. . . . His appreciation of the circus is deepened by his understanding of its long and distinct history.” —The New Republic
“Blending cultural history with biography, memoir and travelogue, Wall’s carefully balanced book is, in itself, a successful tightrope traverse.”
“If ever you have the urge to run away and join the circus, you can save yourself the trip and still have the thrill of it all by reading The Ordinary Acrobat. Duncan Wall’s adventures as a novitiate in a Parisian circus school are wonderfully entertaining. A beautifully written account of life past and present under the big top.” —Eric Lax, author of Woody Allen: A Biography
“Wall [does] an admirable job of pursuing the circus’s road-show mysteries and endlessly winding paths. . . . It isn’t a conventional memoir, but the circus isn’t a conventional subject, either.” —NPR
“An exquisite exposition. . . . Proving himself even more adroit verbally than physically, Wall offers a revelatory love letter to the simultaneously ancient and contemporary art of acrobatics, the circus, and its denizens.” —Library Journal
“In this enchanting memoir sprinkled with historical anecdotes, Wall pulls the reader into the world of circus, past and present. . . . His captivating journey of discovery may lead others to consider running away to join one.” —Publishers Weekly
“Wall is intoxicated and obsessed with the circus. . . . It’s infectious.” —Biographile