BoM: Absolute Magic by Darren Brown

This forum is an ongoing, and evolving, discussion. Genii Forum members discuss opinions and trade notes on current and past magic books.

Postby Dustin Stinett » 01/21/05 09:11 PM

The cat is out of the bag. The February issue of Genii features Darren Brown in a monumental piece by Jamy Ian Swiss. Forum member Sam Kesler contributed a BoM essay on Browns Absolute Magic some time ago, but I held onto it just for this opportunity (I know, I know, I said something else was coming, but that will have to wait). Since I cannot do any better, here is Sams bio, just as he sent it to me, so you may get to know him a bit better:

Ive been interested in magic since I was twelve-years-old. One of the joys of arriving in Los Angeles from the Midwest in 1967 was visiting Joe Bergs second-floor magic shop on Hollywood Boulevard. While my primary hobby became writing novels and screenplays (still unpublished and un-produced), my interest and love of magic has never wavered. In 2000, at the age of 54, I returned to magic as a serious collector and hobbyist thanks to Taylor, my 10-year-old great niece. I joined the IBM and the Hollywood Caryl Fleming Ring #21 in November and plan to apply soon to become a member of the Magic Castle. As card magic is my first love, I was thrilled to recently add a first edition deluxe copy of MINT Volume 1, signed and numbered by Ed Marlo to my collection.

And now, Sam Kesler takes a look at February 2005 Genii cover subject Derren Browns Absolute Magic.

Absolute Magic by Derren Brown (H&R Magic Books, 2003) is the second book by Britains foremost mentalist (he prefers psychological magician) and current boy wonder on the scene today. His television specials have drawn huge audiences and his mass appeal relies on his uncanny ability to predict and control human behavior.

While Absolute Magic may not break any new ground, it does make you think. As Jamy Ian Swiss has pointed out in many of his brilliant Genii book reviews (I think of each of them as essays bordering on masterpieces), if it compels us to think more deeply about our art - thinking is a practice of which magic could use a good deal more. More from Mr. Swiss in a moment.

Absolute Magic is not a collection of routines, but a treatise on Mr. Browns perspective on performance. He focuses on that part of performance that exists when the material is removed. That is, when the magician transcends the trickery and achieves the greater effect and the artists vision is realized. Pretty heady stuff.

While he discusses the topics of cold readings (theatrical and ethical) and pick-pocketing (in technical detail), creating real magic is the primary subject of Browns book; designing routines with a sense of dramatic structure and the creation of a character with the same dramatic sensibility behind it. Real magic occurs when character and performance are fused with magical effect. Unless the principle a magician employs has a meaningful effect on the audience, they have no value. Magic must extend beyond the experience of trickery and deception. And how does one create a true sense of wonder that transcends mere trickery? Browns answer is simple: get the audience to like you. Make the spectators feel comfortable in your company.

Brown doesnt mince words; he speaks bluntly and may irritate some sensitive readers. He ridicules the commercial exploitation of todays magic and yearns for the Victorian age when we manifested a pride in our age and a faith in the worth of our constructs. He decries the fact that there is a lot of dreadful, meaningless, patronizing magic throughout the world. He argues that most contemporary Western close-up magic lacks the experience of magic, rich, resonant magic. Magic that can lead her (spectator) into a never-never land where she can glimpse a level of enchantment that touches and changes her a little. In other words, a grand effect. Brown feels that there are many entertainers but few real magicians. A lot to ask for? Perhaps. Every magician must decide for him/herself.

Reviewed in the March 2002 issue of Genii (quoted with permission) Jamy Ian Swiss writes, If the authors previous book, Pure Effect (reviewed in Genii, March 2000) was a challenge to the status quo of close-up magic, then Absolute Magic is an outright call to arms. Mr. Brown has some ideas about what magic should feel like, but that is only the beginning. In his preface he explains, The aim of this book is to set out, quite apologetically, a model for performing magic in such a way that it feels real to the spectator even though he may intellectually rationalize it later. But the author is after even bigger game: he wants not only to alter the way we do our art and work, but he wants to transform the way we think and feel about it.

Mr. Brown is passionate about drama, the point where entertainment and real magic meet. The role of drama in magic is to strengthen the feel and impact of real and resonant magic. The definition that applies to what Brown is talking about can be found in the Compact Oxford English Dictionary. Resonant: suggesting images, memories, or emotions, evocative, suggestive, expressive, full-bodied, vibrant. Well, you get the idea.

Theatre and magic are inseparable. Brown maintains that showmanship is a cheap substitute for drama. Magic is bad drama and immensely flawed as theatre. As you can see he takes his magic seriously. He argues for magic that has relevance and resonates with the spectators. He further states that dramatic resonance unifies many disparate ideas and brings much into focus. Drama must support the magic, not vice-versa. Brown heartily agrees with Darwin Ortiz and quotes from Strong Magic that the point of a dramatic presentation is to enhance the magic - not there to validate a dramatic premise.

Brown pushes the envelope a bit by declaring that stories are told when entertaining for children (to capture their interest), but there is no need to continue with such obviousness into adult magic. He feels such routines as alienating. Agree or disagree, it does get you thinking about your art.

The book concludes with a thirty-two-page essay titled Can Magic Be Art-New Thoughts. He emphasizes the point that there is a fine line between wishing to produce child-like astonishment and treating people like infants. He feels it is a shame that more magicians do not live their magic and theorizes that one cannot approach magic artistically if we do not possess such a sensibility. Perhaps he is right.

Mr. Brown delights in the fact that after reading his book there will be more magicians in the world who feel a real excitement about his/her work, especially if you are prepared to invest real effort and thought into it. For me, at least, he got his wish. How about you?

Sam Kesler
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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 01/24/05 01:05 PM

This is, in my opinion, an excellent book. The chapter entitled "Designing With Cause" shoudl be required reading for anyone hoping to perform magic.

Derren also wins the prize for my favorite line in any magic book:

'"Excuse me, Sir, but did you lose a white penknife?"

And with these words, the magic fell stillborn from the womb.'
If I had been drinking anything when I read that, my book would have been soaked.

-Jim
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/24/05 01:14 PM

Originally posted by Jim Maloney:
...And with these words, the magic fell stillborn from the womb.'...
No need to use any meta-model questions on that one, as it was written by a man... scary indeed.

It's cute to think about thinking. Harlan Ellison has a pertinent quote on that subject. :D

"If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but if you really make them think, they'll hate you."- Harlan Ellison
Mundus vult decipi
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Postby Guest » 01/24/05 04:28 PM

I have enjoyed Derren Brown's works. He seems to be going in the right direction. I may say only that he seems to have limited himself for personal aesthetic reasons, but I'm sure that even the most open minded of us will eventually close one avenue or another due to personal tastes.

My only other quibble is his rather contradictory description of magic. It is inherently nothing, he says, only what the performer makes of it. Yet he cautions about making the magic subordinate to any other forces, and speaks of magic for the sake of magic. I believe he means well with this phrase-work, however, and it undoubtedly works for him. And a careful look at everyone from ancient greek philosphers to esoteric writers from the last decades will show that leaving an allowance for healthy contradiction is usually a good idea...there is nothing wrong with it really, hypocracy is an overated sin.
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Postby Jeremy Gessaro » 01/24/05 07:58 PM

I did not get that he was contradictory. I got that magic tricks are (in and of themselves) inherently empty and meaningless, and the artist that is a magician creates quite literally the magic experience to be had; which I got is a rather separate thing from the magic trick itself. In fact, you could say that the only substance to magic, is created by the magician through the magic experience. Further, that when this created magic experience is made, that the magician create it such that it is not subordinate to other "forces". Still yet, that the magician-created magic experience is done for the sake of the magic experience.

I took it that Mr. Brown meant what he said and said what he meant.
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Postby Guest » 01/25/05 08:00 AM

Yes, I understand. There are several, as I said, "healthy" contradicitions in the book. Again I mostly agree and like his works.

I guess I'm less cautious about expression getting too 'uppity'.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/25/05 08:13 AM

Originally posted by Stuart Hooper:
Yes, I understand. There are several, as I said, "healthy" contradictions in the book. Again I mostly agree and like his works.

I guess I'm less cautious about expression getting too 'uppity'.
How do you distinguish "healthy" from "unhealthy" contradictions?

While we're at it, healthy for who?
Mundus vult decipi
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Postby El Mystico » 01/25/05 02:32 PM

I love Derren. I love his books. But taken together they point in one direction - Derren's performing style.

While this has been very successful for him, it is unlikely it will be so for anyone else; as with brands, the key issue is differentiation.

Absolutely, his books should be studied by anyone interested in mentalism - but his views should balanced against the classics.

So each of us can come to his own performing style.
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Postby Guest » 01/25/05 07:09 PM

I distinguish healthy and unhealthy in a completely arbitrary manner, according to my will.

Healthy for him, for me, probably for everyone. Not good to be too sure on any given issue, that leads to lying to protect beliefs, which leads to killing to protect/enforce them. There are always at least two sides to any issue.

Bottom line, it seems Mr Brown's philosphy creates a language within which he can work to achieve some Artistic goals he sets for himself...a very good thing in this community, today. He freely admits that probably many other perfectly valid artists will probably have different if not opposing views...such is the way it has oft been, in history. It is up to each of us to find this sort of thing for ourselves...certainly elements of any one person's work may make up a common, or at least shared language...and perhaps there is work being done on a more universal code for expression and its affects, but such would not be of particular relevance here, nor would it be quite traditional in the Artistic sense.

Those with a keen eye will probably have noticed the roundabout and contradictory nature of my posts on this subject, which may serve as a bit of a satire, or an imitation of precicely the sort of thing I mean.

I hope to see more of Mr. Brown's works in the future, and may contemplate the purchase of a Genii magazine for this month, seeing as I have clients coming from San Fransico who might be of a mind to procure me one.
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Postby Guest » 01/25/05 08:20 PM

There's so much in this book that I love.

"[Rather than being an omniscient God, the magician could be] a more human guide to a realm of wonder that will shine through, a little unpredictably, if circumstances in this world are arranged just right."

"If you make a bold statement, they [the audience] will interpret away from the content of the statement . . . However if you imply what you want them to believe in a way that seems unintentional, then they will interpret in the direction that you wish--i.e. towards the desired conclusion."

"If you think that spectator involvement is about telling them to put their hand here or there or think of this or that you are wrong, wrong, wrong. Those things may be involved, but your task is to engage, first and foremost, their imaginations. To bring them in and engage them so deeply, that when they do hold out their hand or take a card, they feel a real sense of anticipation and suspense."


As I quote these words, I feel, for the first time, as an exposer of real secrets. Maybe this post should be deleted. My only defense is that no one frivolous reads threads about books. And those that do might be inspired to buy it and read it.

What a bar Derren has set for the performing magician!

Jack Shalom
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Postby Matthew Field » 01/26/05 10:16 AM

Originally posted by landmark:
There's so much in this book that I love.

What a bar Derren has set for the performing magician!
I quite agree. I purchased this book directly from Derren when he first published it and asked if he would inscribe it to me. Imagine my surprise and delight when he filled a page with his handwritten thoughts.

I think Derren Brown's thinking is absolutely of the highest order. Both of his books, and his card video as well, show a young man striking out in a creative direction to give magic performance the maximum impact possible.

He has become quite a celebrity here in England because of his TV shows, and his national tours regularly sell out. I was less taken with his most recent TV show in which he set out to fool new-age experts. There was something sleazy about his putting one over on the experts, as well as laypeople who had come to experience Derren, who was pretending to be a person with special powers. We all know people will believe in some things we consider bogus -- so what? I believe the purpose of magic is to make people feel good about themselves, not bad. Derren made people in this special feel bad.

But I digress. Derren Brown is a man whose writings will make you look at your own magical performances in a new light. "Absolute Magic" remains one of the most important books I have ever read, and I very much look forward to his continued contributions to our art.

(An aside -- I'd comment in greater detail on this fine book except that it, and its 1000 brethren in my library, are packed up in my garage awaiting moving to a new house.)

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Postby mrgoat » 01/26/05 12:57 PM

(An aside -- I'd comment in greater detail on this fine book except that it, and its 1000 brethren in my library, are packed up in my garage awaiting moving to a new house.)

Matt Field
Is that a very securely locked garage? What's your address again? ;)
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Postby Steve Vaught » 01/26/05 09:53 PM

I have been reading an article by Jamy Swiss. He is interviewing Derren Brown. I have one of Derrens books. I really enjoy how deeply they think about magic. For me, magic is so intriguing. All of the elements of magic are so fascinating. Derren, in his book, Absolute Magic, tries to get the reader to look at magic on a scale of grandeur. I agree. As I was reading this interview in the Genii magazine, Derren talked about a sance he had during the second half of his show. He would end the night saying it was all a lie. That bothered me. If that is so, then only our emotions were manipulated. How violating would that feel? But then again, what are we offering people with our art form, isnt it all emotions anyway. We want people to experience an emotion, so, if an emotion, what kind? Have you ever got emotional over something and then realized you had made a mistake or the basis for the conflict or surprise was wrong. Did that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, I doubt it. Maybe you would like people to leave feeling empty. People generally want to feel good. They want that warm sense that everything is going to be O.K., so why not a happy feeling. By saying that, I am not negating the fact that there are many emotions people could feel through a performance, but to have no thread of meaning, that seems so shallow. Derren mentions in the interview about magic not being about meaning or about getting any meaning across. That bothered me as well. Shouldnt there be some thread of reasoning to why you are doing all of this. Derren mentioned that magic is about having a vision. I wish he could have expounded more on the topic. If vision, there should be meaningright? And if meaning, then we get back to what is your perception of life. Am I going to slant towards the idea that the power is in you and that you help the magic happen. Or that the magic comes from me, and the audience will be aloud to participate in what comes from me. And doesnt all this parallel with how we feel that this world operates and we are communicating that to the audience in an entertaining way. None the less, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article and the book!
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Postby Guest » 01/27/05 06:41 AM

Folks, I think the bottom line is that Mr. Brown's work has unfortunately suprised many, and is being considered ground-breaking, earth-shaking, etc...whereas I believe his general points about the possibilites with Magic, and using it in serious emotional ways, etc...should be fairly obvious, i.e, a starting point for our studies, not the end all of end all. As he himself says, much of the rest of the work is quite personal, and may differ amongst many other people.

Since the concepts unfortuately seem to have taken so many people by suprise, however, I think many are so enamoured of them that there is little debating the matters in their mind. This surely is not healthy, and we must make magic our own instrument of expression, each and everyone of us.

Derren Brown seems to know this.
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Postby Steve Vaught » 01/27/05 09:03 AM

Stuart, I agree, everyone should make magic our own instrument of expression. But, if an instrument, it must have scales, it must have notes, or patterns to go by. I don't see that in Derren's work.
Again, let me say, I really enjoyed reading the book. But when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of performance. What specifically will make my magic...resonate. I feel that Mr. Burger, Mr. Ortiz, and others have given specifics of HOW WE CAN CHANGE! That is what I am looking for, not just "pie in the sky." Maybe I'm wrong, I am interested to hear others opinion on the book.

On page 39-"I am warning against what I might call 'over-presentation,' the activity of some performers who rightfully wish to endow their effects with meaning but do so in a misguided fachion." Also..."inappropriate saturation of meaning." Derren brings up these observations but does not offer any direction. "Mis-guided fashion", ok, then what is the "guided fashion". I did not see that in his book.

Speaking of meaning. I open up my table-hopping set with this script: (After introducing myself and asking for permission to perform)(I am causing two one dollar bills to change into a single five dollar bill)
"I want to start with something I know all of you will enjoy. ( I then pause and look directly at one person) ...especially you! And that's MONEY! You like money don't you? I see it in your eyes. My little girl loves money. I was showing her these two dollar bills the other day. I told her, 'Madison' before you start spending money make sure you know how to save money. I blew on the corner and just like magic...two bills merged together to form one single five dollar bill! So that started her on the road to saving money."

Now the question? Am I enhancing the transformation of money by telling a little story about savings or am I peddling my "saving" views onto a spending frenzied crowd? Am I making the magic more 'real ' by mentioning something I feel is valuable to teach my little girl?

O.K. enough for now, back to work
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Postby Guest » 01/27/05 02:05 PM

No strong disagreements.

My point exactly, in fact, Mr. Brown is discussing general patterns which we should aspire too, (which I believe is where we should start...but anyways, I'll try to be a realist), and not going to deep. He obviously has mechanics for him, and the books are an interesting read.

Some of his generalizations in meaning, etc, are sort of what I was pointing out as contradictions, above. (Magic is meaningless, give it meaning, don't give magic meaning, perform magic for sake of magic....but again, more or less get it)
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Postby Steve Vaught » 02/16/05 12:32 PM

Wow!
Why is it, if you talk about the history of a certain slieght or who stole what, from you know who, you get page after page of participation. But when you go to discuss a book about how to present your magic in a more "real" way, you get very few participants. Not to dilute what has been said prior, I am just surprised more people did not have an opinion of the book or even the IDEA it presents.

Steve V (the other one)
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 02/16/05 01:27 PM

Im curious why this book has not generated more comments as well. I have not read it yet (though I did recently acquire it), but Mr. Browns ideas seem prime grist for the mill.

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Postby Sam Kesler » 02/20/05 08:49 PM

Dustin, I'm not real surprised, even though I'd hoped for more comments. Derrin may have been on the cover of Genii, but I don't think he generates that much excitement, as proven by the lack of response. He'll never be as interesting as, say a Carney (76 replies), nor create a reaction like an old classic in the status of Greater Magic (69 replies) or a Stars of Magic (50). Look at Derek Dingle book (13 replies)! Go figure.

Reviewing the old classics bring out memories and emotions when we were all younger and discovered magic as a kid, perhaps even for the first time.

I wish the forum showed a second column for the number of hits. Okay, maybe only 15 people took the time to reply, but how many people actually clicked on it and read it? To me, that's the only way (short of a poll?) to judge how popular the book review was. How many times do we enjoy the posts but either don't have the time to reply, or don't think we have anything worth contributing? Hmmm.
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Postby Guest » 02/20/05 09:41 PM

Agreed, Sam. I read the BOM posts regularly, whether I have anything to add or not, or even if I haven't even seen the book before. I find the opinions stimulating and intriguing, and they often lead to my hunting a copy of the book in question.

Jon
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Postby Richard Hatch » 02/20/05 10:31 PM

Well, as one half (the "H") of the publishing team that brought ABSOLUTE MAGIC to the American market, let me thank Sam and Dustin for throwing it in this month's spotlight! Independent of his books, Derren is a major talent and someone we are certain to see more of as he continues to stretch the boundaries of his abilities. His books reflect his artistry, as do his caricatures and his carefully crafted public persona. His writing will not appeal to everyone, nor is it intended to. And I must confess that he lost me in his discussion of art theory at the end of ABSOLUTE MAGIC (it was, frankly, "over my head"). I am convinced that if he can penetrate the American media, he will very effectively stoke the smoldering fire of interest in the mysterious that was recently kindled by David Blaine. I'm hoping that happens!
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Postby Michael Kamen » 02/20/05 10:43 PM

I read Derren Brown's iconoclastic book Absolute Magic early last year, and found I agreed with him on how I would usually prefer and prefer not to see magic performed. I also found his writing style extremely funny and enjoyable. I think its fair to say it is one of the best books of its kind I have read. In the subversive tradition of the writings of Maskelyne, Nelms, Ortiz, and Swiss, Brown seems to take the subject matter to another level. I regret that I have not yet had the opportunity to see Mr. Brown perform, and look forward to doing so at some point.
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Postby Matthew Field » 02/21/05 03:37 AM

In answer to Dustin, while I love Derren Brown's writings and videos, he is largely unknown in the U.S. Further, books on magic theory will never generate as much interest among the majority of magicians as books with even mediocre tricks explained in them.

Alas.

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Postby Dustin Stinett » 02/21/05 11:42 PM

Originally posted by Matthew Field:
...books on magic theory will never generate as much interest among the majority of magicians as books with even mediocre tricks explained in them.
Matt,

While I agree with you for the most part, that doesnt completely explain the 50 or so posts garnered by Strong Magic (that is, it doesnt explain it here on the Forumin general what you say is indeed the rule and not the exception). And, it seems to me, there was quite the buzz here in states about Brown. (Particularly in regard to his books and videos, or am I wrong about that?) I suppose there is this possibility: The book sold well due to the buzz, but was not widely read. Regardless, it is disappointing.

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Postby Matthew Field » 02/22/05 03:18 AM

Originally posted by DustinStinett:
The book sold well due to the buzz, but was not widely read.
Dustin -- This is my theory about all magic books, oft expressed by me to Mr. Kaufman. I believe magic books and props have a totemic value to magicians -- their ownnership somehow bestows upoin the purchaser some of the magic contained within, without the necessity of reading or (shudder) practice.

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Postby Richard Hatch » 02/22/05 08:37 AM

Originally posted by Matthew Field:
I believe magic books and props have a totemic value to magicians -- their ownnership somehow bestows upoin the purchaser some of the magic contained within, without the necessity of reading or (shudder) practice.
As booksellers and publishers, what can we do to help foster this belief? That I personally subscribe to it is amply attested to by the evergrowing pile of barely read books by the side of my bed...
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Postby Brian Morton » 02/22/05 11:15 AM

Damn, Matt! And here I'd been sleeping with "Greater Magic" under my pillow for a month, hoping I'd learn it by osmosis.

Another dream shattered. Now I have to go see someone about this crick in my neck...

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Postby Bob Gerdes » 02/22/05 12:08 PM

One of the benefits of not having a lot of money to spend on magic books, and the modest size library that follows: I've actually READ all of the books I own.... most more than once.

Bob
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Postby Sam Kesler » 02/22/05 03:15 PM

Gads! I hope this doesn't mean that David Blaine's book is this month's BOM. Tell me it isn't so, Mr. Stinett! :eek:

Come to think of it, I prefer quality over quantity anyway. I just got back into magic (seriously) in the last five years. I'm building my book collection (only 200) and am guilty of trick books over theory. I just won Vernon's Revelation on ebay. Only recently have I moved beyond that point (well, sort of!) and am adding classic theory books like Our Magic. I am now shopping to buy Camille Gaultier's Magic Without Apparatus. Perhaps the finest book on pure sleight of hand ever written (memo to Dustin)?
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Postby Guest » 02/22/05 04:33 PM

This thread does seem to be getting a bit off the topic of Absolute Magic but it does provide much food for thought.

I think Matthew Field is on to something with his theory about the totemic value of magic books and props. Is it possible we can look at a magician's progress in his craft as being dependant on passing through a hierarchy of levels contained in that theory?

First, he thinks knowing "the secret" of how the trick is done will make him a magician.

Next, he realizes more than "the secret" is necessary, you also need a special prop, or maybe even a gaffed packet trick if you want to be "a card man", to reach the level of Dai Vernon.

Then he discovers that books or, sad to say, DVD's are the real way to attain the highest level. Now being in this level myself (books not DVD's, thank you), I feel Matthew underestimates us in that I really believe (or maybe that should be I really hope) nobody thinks that simply owning a book will make one a great magician. Of course we all know reading the book is necessary.

And ultimately, perhaps, he comes to accept the truth stated so simply in John Carney's The Book of Secrets:

Ultimately, your progress in magic is your sole responsibility. No teacher, book, or video will miraculously improve your magic overnight.

If this "hierarchy" makes any sense, are there any other levels that should be included? Carney's quote suggests that maybe a "teacher" stage comes after the "book" stage. But of course we need the opinions of people who have passed the book stage to know about that.

Also, what comes after the realization that your progress is your responsibility?

Anyway, enough of all that. I think I'll go to my bookshelf and take out Absolute Magic. Rereading it may not be sufficient to make me a better magician, but as I think about it, may be it is necessary.
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Postby TheFireEater » 02/06/09 09:05 AM

Sam Kesler wrote: Ive been interested in magic since I was twelve-years-old. One of the joys of arriving in Los Angeles from the Midwest in 1967 was visiting Joe Bergs second-floor magic shop on Hollywood Boulevard. . . I joined the IBM and the Hollywood Caryl Fleming Ring #21 in November . . .


Well, just gotta say:

Hey, SAM, do I KNOW YOU ? We ought to talk...

I RE-Joined Ring 21 about the same time you Joined it ! ... after my taking about a 30 year absence from it... Long Story, there... did you know ? Ring 21 USED to meet at Joe's Shop ? Back 40 years ago when I first joined it.

When I RE-joined it, I KNEW it had moved around a lot... Joe had died LONG ago, and his son Ronny had 'run the business into the ground' after Joe retired and passed it on to him... really a sad thing that Joe lived long enough to see THAT happen... but, I digress.

I did a websearch and lo, I EXPECTED the meetings to still be somewhere around the Hollywood Area... but NOT in North Hollywood ! Well, guess what ? Where it WAS meeting, at J.B. Monlux Elementary School ? I had been a student THERE when they built that auditorium that they were meeting in !

WOW, funny coincidences ! On top of that, in fact, then when I looked up the SAM... found out that they had been meeting in Alhambra and NOT in Hollywood,too (like they also used to), for a dozen or so years...but what is REALLY a weird coincidence about THAT, though, is how I had also been living in Alhambra, by then about 20 years, myself !

Seemed like I was kind of "Destined" to rejoin each of them, by virtue of the Odd Coincidences, you know ??? !!!

Anyway.... NOW that the Ring meets at the Bob Baker Theatre in Los Angeles, it is a heck of a lot easier for me to attend it... although, THIS PAST EVENING they met, and I had to miss it... are you STILL active in it ?

Like I said, I just HAD to ask, for I JUST joined this Forum TONIGHT (after missing the Ring Meeting) and I JUST saw THIS TOPIC !

Funny coincidences, again ?

Joe's Shop was a Really Special Experience, in so many ways, as was Joe, himself... but, then, so too was his son Ronnie... in an entirely DIFFERENT way, however.

Oh,well, those daze are long gone, now... we will NEVER see another Joe Berg, I feel certain, and what a loss that is !

Did you ever get a good look at all those Black And White Photos that were plastered all over his walls ?

If so, then you would have realized that each was a REALLY famous magician... including such notables as Kellar, Thurston, and Houdini... and EACH was PERSONALLY signed by them, with a message that typically was THANKING Joe for having HELPED THEM OUT So Much !!!

Those pix would be worth a literal fortune, today... wonder what ever happened to them ?

Then too... did you know ? Back then the Ring had an Annual Cavalcade of Magic, a weekend long CONVENTION ?

Happens that was where the FIRST "American" showing of the Zig-Zag occurred... a RIP-OFF version of it, which caused a nasty 'Letter From The Editor' in Genii... given that this particular Cavalcade sought publicity in Genii, and was held 'down the street' from the Castle, with everyone expected to go THERE during and after it... and it ALSO brought out Senator Crandall for his FIRST TIME to visit the West Coast (which directly led to him becoming a Host of the Castle)... well, Rightfully so, Bill Larson Jr. was so pissed off that 'we' hired that 'Rip Off of Harbin' that Genii refused to run ANY publicity for this particular Cavalcade, and TRIED to convince 'everyone else' to also BOYCOTT it !

That was 1968, by-the-way, same year that I became a member of the Castle... I had to wait until I turned 21 to join... back then, dues were JUST $15 a year, too ! Can you BELIEVE that ? (And, note, another coincidence, it was JUST after you had come out here to live ! Did YOU happen to attend that convention ???)

More, so much more, that I could share about all that, and so on... Joe and Les Smith of Owen Magic Supreme were my two sponsors on my Castle Application, by-the-way... plenty of MORE story there, too... Les wanted ME to 'boycott' the Castle, in fact... a LOT of stories to tell !

:-)
Matthew the Munificent
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TheFireEater
 
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