Most helpful critical review
Interesting and Artistic
on November 3, 2003
The obvious and initial impression of Mannix's book is that it contains 120 pages of large print text alongside pictures of popular and historic carnival freaks. This is a book whose initial publication harks from the mid seventies, so one may assume that much of the information provided, such as the prevalence of side shows and the handling of "freaks," is outdated twenty-seven years in the future. What is both relevant and helpful within the bounds of this text is the historicity of the given events and personas portrayed. There is some question as to the veracity of the statements made in that some of what Mannix writes in context does not seem to be very formal or serious. We may desire to look over this fact in that much of what Mannix writes in Freaks seems to be of great personal value and experience though it may not alleviate the strain. Daniel Mannix handles his subject matter comfortably. The pictures are often helpful, though sometimes graphic. The greatest complaint that I hold in regard to the pictures is that they seem to be somewhat disorganized in relation to the text; it is often helpful to place photographs of your subject matter with the text of your subject matter as opposed to the apparent alternative. Another point to make in the overall organization of the book is that it is sometimes redundant as Mannix tends to repeat information in latter chapters that he had already provided in former ones.
Freaks grants us a view of freakdom from the end those who are labeled as freaks due (generally) to a condition retained from a birth and existence that does not conform to the norms of our idea of normal. Some of those highlighted within the text are monstrously obese, others have three legs, a few even have two heads (or faces, such as Edward Mordake ), and still, Mannix tries to reveal these to live in some sort of paradox wherein they are the same while remaining unequivocally different than all of the world. One of the biggest points that Mannix tries to get across is that this difference has been, for centuries past, the livelihood for many of these freaks. From the times wherein they were found to be bound to kings and courts to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as depicted in circus sideshows and carnivals, "freaks" have made fortunes by taking advantage of their mutated traits. The delineation may have been unknown, and yet their popularity as well unmatched by what other forms of "entertainment" existed during their time. The information provided, though seemingly first hand or closely networked, does not seem to be well researched or annotated. On the basis of this, we may not necessarily retain that Mannix's text is necessarily reliable nor may we ascertain that many of his stories of freaks past are essentially true (he even said that some of the stories were questionable). As a very general and entertaining work, this book may suffice. As an informative source, it does provide more information on freaks than I have personally read anywhere else (though I have never read any other works on freaks). This book has worked well to help whet my mind in the area of freaks, though I still think it a bit sketchy in the area of reliability.