Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women

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Learned pigs & fireproof women.jpg
Author Ricky Jay
Genre Theatre
Publisher Villard Books; Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date
1986, 1998
Pages 343
ISBN 978-0-374-52570-5
790.20922, 791.0922

Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women is a book written by stage magician, actor and writer Ricky Jay.[1] Divided into numerous themed chapters, the book provides the bizarre histories of some of the world's most eccentric entertainers, ranging from mind readers and daredevils to animal handlers and stone eaters. Jay presents all of his subjects within their historical contexts and provides numerous illustrations and posters alongside his text.

Some examples of the entertainers included in Jay's book:

  • The learned pig of the title, a pig that could spell, calculate and read minds.
  • Joseph Pujol, also known as Le Petomane, the master flatulist.
  • Max Malini, the illusionist famous for his audacity and his tricks involving unsuspecting celebrities.
  • Leon Rauch, also known as LaRoche, the Sisyphus of the circus world.
  • Ivan Ivanitz Chabert, the "Human Salamander" and "Really Incombustible Phenomenon".

First published in 1986 by Villard Books,[1] the book is currently out of print.


A television special[2] of the same name was created based on Jay's book in 1989. The show featured a variety of magic tricks, stunts and performances, such as a musical performance on wine glasses and an antique acrobatic clockwork doll.


The title of the book was considered irresistibly tempting by Richard Goodman, who cited it as an example in his work on creative writing.[3]

John Gross reviewed it for The New York Times. He found it to be excellent, being well researched, having a good range of exotic examples and being well-written with good humour.[4]

Pop culture[edit]

In the 1999 film Magnolia, starring Tom Cruise, a boy is reading in the library, and the book is seen amongst the volumes the boy has chosen to read. Jay himself appears in the movie, in a supporting role.


  1. ^ a b Kakutani, Michiko (28 August 2001). "Books of the Times; A Tragic Touch in Oddities, Tricks and Hoaxes". The New York Times: 8. 
  2. ^ Jay, Ricky (1989). "Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women". Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  3. ^ Richard Goodman (2009), The Soul of Creative Writing, p. 78, ISBN 978-1-4128-1051-7 
  4. ^ Gross, John (14 November 1986). "Books of the Times". The New York Times.