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Thursday, December 09, 2021

Review: How Magicians Think

 I'm admitted a snob for the written work, but How Magicians Think managed to get me to watch a few youtube videos, which is an amazing accomplishment. The book is about stage and close up magic, and reveals to me several things about magicians that I'd never known or thought about before.

The book is structured as a series of short chapters, each of which is only a few pages long and focuses on one item. Yet there are themes that span the entire book. One big theme is how much time a magician spends practicing his shows. At one point he quotes another magician saying, "In the time I spent learning to do this trick I could have been a doctor." That develops into several other themes, such as how while other professions might be openly bragging about how hard they work to achieve their effects, no magician can ever do so. The entire point of the practice is to make the motions effortless and invisible, so you cannot draw attention to that effort. But Joshua Jay describes grueling hours in front of a magician's mirror, as well as time spent practicing in the dark.

Another interesting theme is that of presentation. The perfect presentation is actually boring. The important piece that he emphasizes is that you have to have a narrative that fits the trick you're trying to present, and that technical perfection is actually not as important as the narrative. This got me to watch his stint on "Fool Us", which was great.

Jay's admiration of other magicians is also awesome. Through this, he got me to watch more videos, such as Pierric's 2015 FISM performance, as well as Penn and Teller's Cup and Ball. Even with the tricks in full view, the latter showed me how smooth and how practiced a magician has to be. Then I finally got around to watching Shin Lim and that guy was amazing too!

There's a series of articles about visits to other magicians' homes, as well as to the magic castle. Every article was worth reading, and I thoroughly enjoyed following up on the names he mentioned in the book. This book got me to watch way more magic videos than I ever thought I would. Highly recommended.

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