Its strength is more than 400 pages of illustrations on learning tricks.
The experience of ten years teaching an estimated 300,000 people to juggle has been processed through the heart and sweat glands of Dave Finnigan (aka Professor Confidence) into "The Complete Juggler." There's never been a juggling publications event like it.
The Vintage branch of Random House selected "The Complete Juggler" as its seasonal feature and was to unveil it with mall events and a publicity tour by the author during February. Vintage took on the project readily. It was they who published Carlo's "Juggling Book" in 1974, and they witnessed the tremendous success of Klutz Press's "Juggling for the Complete Klutz."
"We did very well on Carlo's book, and think this one is even better," said Ann Freedgood, Vintage executive editor.
"The Complete Juggler" deserves the hoopla. There's never been a juggling book so voluminous (more than 600 pages), more economical (just $9.95), or more heavily illustrated (thousands of how-to drawings).
Since the day ten years ago Finnigan left his former employment and first called himself a juggler, he has strived to give juggling to the masses. His company, "Jugglebug," was the first to feature equipment for beginners and broad availability nationwide. He began "The Juggling Institute" to teach school-age children in a systematic manner. Publication of "The Complete Juggler" is the capstone of his accomplishments.
It's also going to be a tremendous boon to the IJA. Finnigan has dedicated the book to us, "An organization with a heart -- and a funnybone," as he says. For that eloquent compliment, on behalf of us all, I say, "thanks Professor!"
Finnigan spent a full-time year working with artist Bruce Edwards and a layout assistant to construct this mammoth book. "The Complete Juggler" tackles the subject from every conceivable angle. Its strength is more than 400 pages of illustrations on learning tricks. The chapters cover balls, rings, clubs, cigar boxes, devil sticks, diabolos, hats, plates, spinning and auxiliary equipment. Each page is lively with pictures and light on copy, inviting readers to keep turning them. Realistic renditions of Finnigan and his friends are interspersed with a dough-boy type character who makes additional points.
Lest you think it's only a book for beginners, hear ye that most difficult material is covered as well. Yes, you can learn three scarves here (they're packed in the flyleaf), but the Professor will also teach you a seven-ball multiplex and devil stick moves with two hands simultaneously.
The book guides you through the steps leading up to the difficult tricks. Finnigan said, "It takes you through the intermediate level with illustrations. If you want to be a polished performer you have to go beyond that, and no book can help there. The art becomes too idiosyncratic."
That book also proposes a certification level system for those inclined to take tests and receive badges. Requirements for winning a badge appear at the beginning of each chapter. If you can learn the required tricks and have an official attest to that fact (IJA affiliates count as officials), you can buy the badge for a nominal fee. Jugglebug is betting that the system won't be abused because badge holders will fear friends may ask them to demonstrate the tricks they've learned!
An additional 150 pages of text includes a list of sources for more information, performance tips and 23 novelty routines in the public domain. The latter is balanced with a statement on plagiarism emphasizing the dishonor of outright stealing of material.
There are outlines of how to do school assemblies (and how to creatively control screaming kids!) and juggling games.
Passing on what he has learned to do best, Finnigan includes an extensive section on how to teach others to juggle. Beginning with one scarf for youngsters, two dozen lesson plans for students from elementary level to secondary school are revealed. Each begins with the objective of the lesson, equipment needed and steps in the lesson.
Want to make money with your juggling? The book tells you how, including the warning, "You must be willing to invest two or three years of hard work before you begin to see success. Don't quit that day job yet." Included in that chapter are tips on promotion, publicity kits, developing a persona, contracts and the various markets you might consider.
Ten years ago Finnigan quit his former employ and became a juggler in order to "spread the joy" he found in the activity. The penultimate chapter of the book is about "spreading the joy." He wants us to challenge others to learn, to start a club, to hold a festival, and gives the reader information to assist those endeavors.
The book concludes with an inventive visit to an imaginary IJA convention. The author brings contemporary jugglers into the spotlight, then probes the historical roots of their specialties. The section gives a good overview of the modern juggling repertoire along with a brief history of the art.
Who's it for? Finnigan has never been accused of thinking small. He's counting on phys ed teachers to buy the book and begin teaching juggling as part of their curriculum in schools all over the country.
I believe the book's publication represents a landmark in the contemporary history of juggling. Its affordability and availability will give far-flung jugglers a common bond. Jugglebug is betting that the system of certification pins will also capture the imagination of young jugglers. It will generate a surge of interest and participation in the juggling by the general public.
At best, enough critical mass could generated to interest arts patrons, foundations, corporations and the media to support juggling as wholeheartedly as other fine arts. That remains to be seen. But one thing's for certain. It's as good a springboard toward that popularity as juggling has ever been offered!
I also want to use this space to offer public apology to an old friend of the IJA who was offended by my comments in this space in the last issue. The politics of professional juggling these days can only be fully realized by those, like him, who live them daily. The IJA's effect on juggling as popular recreation and as media phenomenon might be growing, but the top realm of the profession feels our impact very little. In my post-convention zeal I overstepped my editorial privilege, and the juggler in question let me know of it in no uncertain terms! Here's saying "Sorry, friend." I never intended that kind of harm.