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The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam [Paperback]

Ann Marie Fleming
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 4 2007
A full-color graphic memoir inspired by the award-winning documentary-and the life and mystery of China's greatest magician.

Who was Long Tack Sam?

He was born in 1885. He ran away from Shangdung Province to join the circus. He was an acrobat. A magician. A comic. An impresario. A restaurateur. A theater owner. A world traveler. An East-West ambassador. A mentor to Orson Welles. He was considered the greatest act in the history of vaudeville.

In this gorgeous graphic memoir, his great-granddaughter, the artist and filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming, resurrects his fascinating life for the rest of the world. It's an exhilarating testament to a forgotten man. And every picture is true.

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*Starred Review* Fleming's great-grandfather, Long Tack Sam, began life in a nineteenth-century Chinese village and died more than 70 years later in Austria. In between, he performed as a world-class magician and lived for significant portions of time on every continent except Africa and Antarctica. Fleming herself, born a year after his death, invested time, money, and travel in exploring her great-grandfather's story or, more accurately, the versions of his biography provided by far-flung relatives, fellow magicians, and former neighbors. Presenting both her search and what she found in a pastiche of succinctly written narrative (lots of it), cartoon drawings, old handbills, clippings, and photos, Fleming successfully shows how dramatic the role of international politics in a particular person's life can be. In the case of Long Tack Sam, both world wars, U.S. and Canadian laws written to bar Chinese immigrants, and the rise and fall of vaudeville as popular entertainment shaped, shifted, colored, and textured daily existence. Fleming makes that kaleidoscope of influences accessible and virtually tangible, not only as they formed Long Tack Sam but also on her own essence. Very appealing for biography readers, twentieth-century world-history buffs, and comics enthusiasts alike. Goldsmith, Francisca

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic April 9 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A wonderful and highly engaging graphic novel by Fleming. She has carried out extensive historical research and presents it in a fresh, entertaining way. The aesthetic techniques capture qualities of animated film and prompt us to consider alternative histories. Long Tack Sam is an inspiring character: watching his story unfold led me to reflect on my own history and culture and consider how I too could become a "citizen of the world."
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4.0 out of 5 stars Heartfelt History Sept. 16 2012
Format:Paperback
This is set up similar to a graphic novel in that there are comics, but there is also the addition of photographs and time-lines. The premise is that the author found out she was related to a Chinese acrobat/magician named Long Tack Sam, and wondered both why she didn’t know about him before and why was his story forgotten? This book outlines her attempt to narrate the life of Long Tack Sam.

I felt the layout was done very well, especially the combination of the illustrations, comic styles, photographs, and time-lines. The time-lines helped keep perspective/context as to what else was going on during that period of Long Tack Sam’s life. The story itself was interesting, and when there were conflicting bits of information, the author did a great job at discussing the likelihood of each.

My only complaint is that I didn’t feel like I got enough of a grasp of the acrobatic and magician side of things. I was expecting to learn some secrets of the trade, and although some are revealed, I was thirsty for more.

Recommended for history buffs, those interested in Chinese history and culture, circus lovers, and those that want to read a good book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful and fascinating Sept. 6 2007
By Jennifer Levy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I had seen Ann Marie Fleming's documentary film about her great-grandfather, Long Tack Sam, and was thrilled to see that she had also written a book about him. I was expecting the usual sort of biography, text with a couple of photo inserts. Instead, the book is a mix of text, cartoons, and photos, much in the same style as the movie. It's absolutely beautiful, and the period images (ads and posters, photos, etc) convey the style and feel of the vaudeville era which was Sam's heyday. I love to read about vaudeville but it's the images that bring those times to life for me, and this book does it wonderfully.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magic in itself Jan. 7 2008
By Jacob C. Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read this in one sitting! This was done in a journal/comic book format that was informative, fun, and made me feel that when I ended the book, I left with something special. Sam was a pioneer, and all the amazing people he met and worked with (Orson Wells, Laurel and Hardy to name a few), it's like the back of the book said, how come no one knows who this famous man is? His rufasal to compromise to the Chinese steriotype in order to enter Hollywood, and that his daughters were considered too pretty to be filmed as Asians for any Hollywood pictures , really reminds you that the 20th century really changed our views of the world and culture. This man went all over the world, married an Austrian lady, and go figure, had competition from white magicians dressing in Asian motifs and taking similar names to him! I can go on ad infinitium about how great this was, and how I came upon this by accident. I strongly recommend this book to not only magicians, but also to anyone looking for a fun and entertaining read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book. June 25 2011
By Redhead18 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An insightful, delightful book. A very personal story that is bigger than it first appears and reminds us all we have stories
worth researching and remembering. The confusing, conflicting details of family memories are presented in a creative way
and the multiple perspectives are woven together with history, bystanders, Fleming and family in a compelling and funny presentation that wins you over only a few pages in.
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic quest! March 28 2014
By John Mccann - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What can we possibly know about our ancestors? What evidence may we rely upon? Why do people have different recollections of the same events? In following Ann Marie Fleming's quest to know more about her great-granfather, we learn much about the process of history and detection and learn to question the family narratives that have been presented to us. A moving experience.
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical memoir March 11 2008
By Victrola - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
With its unique combination of cartoons, photos, newspaper clippings, this is everything a graphic novel should be. It's entertaining, informative and a page turner of sorts. As the memoir progresses, you get drawn into Long Tack Sam's life and you root for him. I felt myself wishing that I had been around to catch his act.
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