I've preordered this first book on Amazon.com. It's due out August 30, and looks, to me anyway, like an interesting premise:
PERFORMING DARK ARTS: A Cultural History of Conjuring (Intellect Books - Theatre and Consciousness, publisher) (Paperback)
by Michael Mangan (Author)
From David Blaines death-defying feats of will to Harry Potters boarding-school victories against evil forces, the darker side of magic and its performance clearly strikes a cultural nerve. The conjurors act of bringing the impossible into being and summoning both the grotesque and marvelous with a sudden gesture challenges spectators assumptions of reality and fantasy. Performing Dark Arts explores the paradox of the conjuror and the broader cultural implications of magics assault on human perception.
Michael Mangan illuminates the history of the conjuring arts and tests the boundaries of theatrical scholarship by analyzing magic acts alongside more conventional dramatic forms. This bracingly original volume discusses the performances of individual magicians and public reception of their acts and locates the mysterious cultural significance of the dark arts and those who practice them. Shining a light on the grey area between acting and being, perception and reality, Performing Dark Arts is a book that will open your mind to the possibilities of magic.
About the Author:
Michael Mangan holds the chair in drama at Exeter University, United Kingdom. He has also worked as a playwright, director, literary manager, dramaturge, and actor.
I've recently read William J. Broad's THE ORACLE, as well (Penguin Press, 2006). The latter will be of interest to those seeking information on the ancient Oracle of Delphi (this is, I believe, the most comprehensive work on the subject to date). Magic historians will recall that the earliest written accounts of billet reading were associated with similar Oracles. The book also covers interesting ground on the scientific plausibility of paranormal abilities.
Author Broad is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and a senior writer for the New York Times, specializing in scientific topics.