Autobiographies

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Postby Tim Ellis » 01/31/09 11:57 PM

I've just finished reading Paul Daniels fascinating account of his life 'Under No Illusion'.

Previously I've also read Sydney magician Maurice Rooklyn's 'Spherical Sorcery: Recollections of a Pro' and Adelaide magician Gene Raymond's 'Almost a Goner'.

It struck me that, though a lot of books are written about the lives of well known magicians, not many are written by the magicians themselves.

Can anyone recommend any other magician autobiographies?
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Postby Anthony Owen » 02/01/09 03:32 AM

Hey Tim,

I love autobiographies by professional magicians. My favourites are:

Milo and Roger by Arthur Brandon

My Magic Life by David Devant

Illusion Show by David Bamberg

Memoirs of Robert Houdin

Best,

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Postby Tim Ellis » 02/01/09 04:31 AM

Thanks! The Milo & Roger book sounds especially good.
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Postby David Vamer » 02/01/09 06:24 AM

The Autobiography of Gus Rapp. It is an absolute MUST READ.

How can you resist a book that starts with, "I was born dead."????
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Postby Dave Klaiber » 02/01/09 09:41 AM

Tim,

Any idea where I can find a copy of Raymond's book? Did some searching on the Internet but none found.

Thanks,

Dave
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Postby Zig Zagger » 02/01/09 12:32 PM

Tim,

here are some more (auto)biographies for your consideration:

Horace Goldin - It's Fun to be Fooled
Harry Kellar - A Magician's Tour
Charles Bertram - A Magician in Many Lands
Jasper Maskelyne - White Magic (on the Maskelyne dynasty)
Harry Leat - 40 Years in and around Magic
Gary R. Brown - The Coney Island Fakir: The Magical Life of Al Flosso
Daniel Waldron - Blackstone: A Magician's Life


Some of them are available as E-Books, some are much harder to find.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 02/01/09 04:43 PM

Tim Ellis wrote:Thanks! The Milo & Roger book sounds especially good.


Tim,

If I may be allowed a bit of shameless self-promotion (without worry of Richard Kaufman being advised to rein me in), Stephen Minch is running a heck of a deal on the Milo and Roger book along with my must have companion monograph that is still available. Its a Hermetic Press exclusive that is not on his site. Details can be found by clicking here.

Details on my book can be found at my site: http://miloandroger.com/

Thanks for your consideration!
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Postby Tim Ellis » 02/01/09 05:26 PM

Thanks Zig Zagger, but I'm specifically looking for autobiographies - they seem to be a rarer book as far as magicians go.

Dave, the Gene Raymond book was produced as a limited edition of 200. It's hardcover and very nicely produced, but I think the only way you'd find one would be to scour the auction sites.
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Postby Zig Zagger » 02/01/09 05:47 PM

Tim,

you're welcome and you're right - they seem to be a bit rare amongst the zillions of magic books. However, the Top 5 should qualify as autobiographies (as long as there weren't any ghostwriters employed - but that has been said of Robert-Houdin's piece as well, as we know... and Paul Daniels also took a helping hand.)
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Postby Tim Ellis » 02/01/09 05:51 PM

The rare thing is for a magician to be in, or feel that he or she is in, the situation where they are still alive and feel the desire to tell their own story.

I'm actually quite surprised as there is no David Copperfield autobiography out yet. He's one of the few magicians around today the public has an interest in.
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Postby Zig Zagger » 02/01/09 06:30 PM

I agree! However, the public might even be more interested in hearing details from him dating Claudia Schiffer or buying islands in the Caribbean than designing miracles, collecting paraphernalia and staging moving shows...

One more you might find interesting: "Mr. Electric - Unplugged" by Marvyn Roy.
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Postby Tim Ellis » 02/01/09 07:37 PM

Well a lot of the most interesting parts of Paul Daniels life had nothing to do with magic! ;)
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Postby Magic Newswire » 02/01/09 10:29 PM

The Mr Electric book is great...
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Postby magicam » 02/02/09 01:59 AM

Tim Ellis wrote:... I'm specifically looking for autobiographies - they seem to be a rarer book as far as magicians go. ...


Tim, just curious: are you primarily interested in autobiographies because there are relatively few of them in our literature? Nothing wrong with that angle, just curious.

Theres actually quite a bit of autobiographical material out there, if you dont rule out shorter works and foreign-language titles. Wouldnt surprise me if there were at least a couple hundred titles. And if you include magazine articles and pitchbooks, the quantity of material really goes up.

Some autobiographies were ghosted and many are not reliable so far as historical accuracy goes. For example, many historians agree that Thurstons My Life in Magic was ghosted, and there are good reasons to conclude that not only were Maskelynes White Magic and Beauforts Nothing Up My Sleeve both ghosted, but also written by the same guy. And given that Stanley, Paul & Co. published the Maskelyne and Beaufort titles, it would not surprise me if Goldins Its Fun to be Fooled was also ghosted.

Another thing to consider is the magic content in some of these works. For example, Bertrams A Magician in Many Lands has very little to do with Bertrams relationship to magic, and is really just a collection of anecdotes by a world traveler. A similar observation could be made about Kellars autobiography, though to a lesser degree.

Important autobiographical information can also be gleaned from works which do not purport to be autobiographies, for example, Houdinis The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin.

As usual, with any field of collecting even for seemingly narrow niches it can get tricky and sticky trying to define exactly what it is you want to collect. But in any event, the process and pursuit is fun.

Happy hunting!
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Postby Tim Ellis » 02/02/09 02:51 AM

My main interest is hearing the author talk about his life from his perspective.

I've read A LOT of wrestler's autobiographies (most of which are also ghosted) and I'm fascinated when they talk about the same event but give completely different perspectives.

A biographer can give the facts, as seen from someone else's eyes, but I prefer to hear the story straight from the source. Often, yes, the autobiographer will embellish (either unintentionally or deliberately) but that is often very obvious and even more illuminating.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 02/02/09 04:08 AM

Another terrific autobiography not yet mentioned is Steve Martin's Born Standing Up. He does write about his experiences in magic. It's a really great read and can be found at H&R Books.

And, while not magic (and for what it's worth to you coming from me), one the greatest autobiographies I've ever read is Harpo Speaks by Harpo Marx. It is a truly remarkable book that is still in print in paperback. (Perhaps that it is discussed by Max Maven in his show will carry more weight with you than just my recommendation.)

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Postby Jim Maloney » 02/02/09 08:35 AM

Harpo Speaks! is one of my favorite books. There is a tiny magic component to it, though, where Harpo talks about the time his grandfather (who was a magician) taught him backpalming. And also how he used a bit of pickpocketing to perform some mentalism at a party.

There's also Nate Leipzig's autobiography, available here.

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Postby Doug Thornton » 02/02/09 11:23 AM

Can't agree more with Milo and Roger, Steve Martin's Born Standing Up, and Harpo Speaks! (The Marx Brothers are my all-time favorites.)
How about David Blaine's Mysterious Stranger ?
A great read.
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Postby Tim Ellis » 02/02/09 05:01 PM

Can Mysterious Stranger be considered an autobiography?
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Postby Doug Thornton » 02/02/09 08:46 PM

Absolutely, Tim. Sure, he writes about other magicians, but Mr. Blaine also tells his own story.
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Postby Timothy Hyde » 02/03/09 06:26 AM

Dustin Stinett wrote:And, while not magic, one the greatest autobiographies I've ever read is Harpo Speaks by Harpo Marx. It is a truly remarkable book

Dustin


The routine "Pinchy Winchy"
as outlined by Harpo
remains one of my favourite
gobsmakingly hilarious
interactive routines

like all magic
just have to choose the moment
and the perfect people

thanks Dustin for reminding me
to seek out the book and read again


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