how to study/ read magic books?

A place where beginners can participate, ask questions, and post their views. However, beginners typically ask a lot of questions about sources, tricks, books, and so on. In fact, all magicians are interested (or should be) in the provenance of tricks, ideas, and related matters. This department will service these needs.

Postby RobertLieng » 12/06/09 10:41 PM

There has always been this difficultly for me to study/ read magic books. I was wondering from the many magicians here, how do you guys read magic books? Do you first read each effect and then take out the deck or read each effect with the deck in hand? Would you all care to explain your procedures in studying magic from books?
RobertLieng
 
Posts: 1
Joined: 07/21/08 10:36 PM

Postby Mark.Lewis » 12/06/09 10:56 PM

Read it with the props in hand. And it is probably a good idea to formulate a study plan of some kind before you even start the
book. Some books have an inbuilt study plan such as the Royal Road to Card Magic but most books don't. In that case you will have to invent your own study plan that would suit you although not necessarily anyone else.

Many books just have trick after trick in them and that can be a bit confusing because you don't know where to start. And a lot depends on how advanced you are in magic in the first place. If you know a lot of tricks already it may be pointless to learn any more but you probably will because you want to entertain yourself more than anything else.

It really is a matter of I have said of formulating a study plan according to the book you are studying. Different books require different study plans.

Opie Houston of Texas has actually made some good study plans for certain books such as an excellent one for Bobo's Modern Coin Magic. He is a member here and may chime in on this matter.
Mark.Lewis
 
Posts: 853
Joined: 09/12/09 07:18 AM

Postby Joe Mckay » 12/06/09 11:08 PM

Here is my procedure. It has evolved over the past 15 years. For the past 5 years or so this is what I have done...

1) FIRST READ THROUGH: I crack open the book and read it from cover to cover. I really savour the book and enjoy it over a night or two... [This takes 2/3 hours]

2) SECOND READ THROUGH: I skim read through the book this time. In a note-pad I make a note of the page numbers of all the tricks that catch my eye for whatever reason... [This can be done quite quickly - often in about 20/30 minutes or so]

3) THIRD READ THROUGH: With a deck of cards in hand I work through all the tricks that caught my eye during my second-read through. I put a tick next to all the tricks that I really really like... [This tends to take me an hour or two] I should add one point about this third step. I have studied tens of thousands of card tricks (I have no life!). So - it is often possible to complete this step without a deck of cards in hand. By just reading through the descriptions quite slowly and visualising what is happening, it is possible to get an accurate feel for how much you like a trick...

4) FOURTH READ THROUGH: If there are any tricks that I like enough to add to my repertoire then I may spend 30 minutes or so practicing the trick until it becomes part of me and rests in my long-term memory. From there it goes into my repertoire and will be revisited as often as any other trick in my repertoire...

THAT'S IT!

It is a nice system for me since I can recall most of what I read in a magic book. I also have a list of good effects from the book - with my favourites highlighted. I then decide whether or not to add any of the highlights to my permanent 'repertoire'. These lists often turn out to be handy later on down the line (particulary as your tastes evolve). I got bit by the Faro Shuffle bug a couple of years ago. I did alot of research into it. Then the bug went away... It came back again recently and it is really great having all my old notes to hand. Another nice example was my old notes which help me find a Frank Thompson reference for a recent thread. I also find the act of writing something down helps lock that piece of information in your head. So - alot more information/references lodges in my head thanks to the different lists for different books I have made over the years...

I believe it is important to read ANY important book at least twice. You read it the first time for pleasure and the second time for knowledge. I find it impossible to recall anything from a book after reading it just the one time. This is important to note as well if you ever have to study a book for an exam. It is hard to explain - but your first readthrough acts as a kind of mental map/overview for when you read it again. You will find on your second readthrough of any book that information starts to STICK effortlessly in your head...

One other thing - I only apply the above procedure to big books that I think will be worthy of study. Alot of books (of a lesser quality) can be absorbed with just the one read-through. These are the sort of books where you rarely find anything which catches your interest...

Of course part of the fun in magic is that books you think will be great often turn out to be duds. And - less often - books you don't have high hopes for turn out to be great...

The above is my procedure for dealing with new magic books that I come across. I am always going through old books and magazines as well. Often you look up an old trick for some reason and it leads onto another and another...

One last thing - the best card magic books ever written are THE COMPLETE WALTON! ;)

All the best,

Joe
Joe Mckay
 
Posts: 618
Joined: 04/13/08 06:56 AM

Postby Paul Gordon » 12/07/09 03:13 AM

I always recommend folks to try EVERYTHING at least once. If you don't try it all, you'll never know what stuff suits you. And, as ones knowledge grows, it's a good idea to revisit the book from time to time; to "find" new(?) stuff. Sadly, so many folks buy a book, cry "it's not for me", get fooled/entertained by some of the tricks from it (by the creator/another magician), and then wish they hadn't sold the book.

Paul Gordon
Secure Online Magic Shop: http://www.paulgordon.net/shop.html
Paul Gordon
 
Posts: 340
Joined: 05/01/08 01:45 PM
Location: UK

Postby opie » 12/07/09 05:00 AM

Mark, here are the guides to which you referred.......I don't know how much they may have helped anybody, but the writing of them sure helped me get through those two books....I still need to run through them again, occasionally....

http://forums.singaporemagiccircle.com/ ... opic=10383 - RRTCM Study Guide -

http://74.125.47.132/search?q=cache:23- ... =firefox-a - Bobo Modern Coin Magic Study Guide -

opie
opie
 
Posts: 502
Joined: 03/14/08 10:43 AM
Location: austin tx

Postby Mark.Lewis » 12/07/09 07:33 AM

I very much like Joe McKays system except for one tiny thing. He says it takes him 30 minutes to practice a trick he wishes to add to his repertoire. Maybe I am a slow learner but it takes me a hell of a lot longer than that. In fact it takes me about half an hour to work out the patter alone let alone practise the technique. If it is a difficult trick technically then it is going to take even longer, possibly days. Mind you because of my knowledge of magic I am often able to curtail this by using easier methods if I deem them to be just as useful. Unlike others I never get hung up on technique. I will use ANY method if it gets to my objective in a effective way.

But then once I have learned the mechanics of the trick and the patter and presentation I have barely started. I have to rehearse the bloody thing. And then comes the most important step of all. I have to find some bloody human being to try it on and see what the reaction is. And again and again and again until the trick flows smoothly.I never show the item to magicians since I do not consider them to be normal human beings.

It can take me weeks to learn one trick even if said trick is a self worker. There are not enough days in a lifetime to learn everything you want. That is probably why I never pay attention to magicians lecturing or try a fraction of the tricks outlined in books.

I rather think that everyone on this forum knows too many tricks already. Perhaps we should all work on the ones we already know. I have no idea. I do know that I can't learn a trick in half an hour. The basics yes but you need more than the basics.

Mind you I learned the Pass in ten minutes. Of course the book I learned it from was published in the late 19th century which supports my contention that any material from after 1954 is of no interest to me. I am terribly old fashioned I am afraid.
Mark.Lewis
 
Posts: 853
Joined: 09/12/09 07:18 AM

Postby Joe Mckay » 12/07/09 08:11 AM

Hi Mark,

I agree with what you say. What I was talking about it the beginning stages of learning a new trick. I learn it for 30 minutes or so, just to get familiar with it. It then gets added to a small list which makes up my 'repertoire'. Now - any trick in my 'repertoire' will be practiced for many hours for as long as it is stays in my 'repertoire'. So - I do put in the practice you suggest, but only after I have added it to that list. Also - the bulk of that practice might not take place until a couple of weeks after reading the book (depending when I get round to it)...

So - what I wrote above was just an indication of how I initially approach a book and then intially approach a new trick. I like to put in 30 minutes or so whilst it is fresh just to help cement it into my outlook...

Anyway - I am a complete amateur, so my interests in this area are probably very different to that of a professional. I am sure I do what most amateurs do - work on stuff that is not practical, not pay attention to presentation enough and always be searching for NEW tricks instead of perfecting the old ones...

Oh well - That is the way it is. I would be interested to hear from professionals if they found magic as a hobby to be more fun or less fun, when they didn't have to do it for a living? I would imagine that nothing beats the fun of being an amateur?

Joe

PS Every so often I will dig out an old book and go through it again. It is amazing the amount of stuff that you overlook in the past which is now of real interest. This happens to me alot, and is a big part of any 'system of study' for magic books...

PPS I am sure I saw [censored] pitching Svengali decks (at a local shopping mall) when I was 7 years old. My mum bought me a deck and it was the most magicial thing I had ever seen. At that age I couldn't get my head around the 'long and short' principle, and so the deck really did feel like real magic. I had no idea how the deck kept changing like that! So - It is quite possible, without Mark I might not be on this board now! Funny old world! Actually - one of my interests is in magic that takes place purely in the spectator's hands. And I think this might be because of the wonder that the svengali deck caused me when I fooled myself with it as a kid...

PPPS One thing I remember as a kid, is that Mark's performing persona is quite gruff and not immediately friendly. I always found that to be quite unusual. Still - it is obviously quite memorable...
Joe Mckay
 
Posts: 618
Joined: 04/13/08 06:56 AM

Postby Paul Gordon » 12/07/09 08:18 AM

To add to my last post, it's also good to revist books because our tastes change over the years...

PG
Secure Online Magic Shop: http://www.paulgordon.net/shop.html
Paul Gordon
 
Posts: 340
Joined: 05/01/08 01:45 PM
Location: UK

Postby Mark.Lewis » 12/07/09 01:24 PM

Joe Mckay wrote:
PPS I am sure I saw [censored] pitching Svengali decks (at a local shopping mall) when I was 7 years old. My mum bought me a deck and it was the most magicial thing I had ever seen. At that age I couldn't get my head around the 'long and short' principle, and so the deck really did feel like real magic. I had no idea how the deck kept changing like that! So - It is quite possible, without Mark I might not be on this board now! Funny old world! Actually - one of my interests is in magic that takes place purely in the spectator's hands. And I think this might be because of the wonder that the svengali deck caused me when I fooled myself with it as a kid...

PPPS One thing I remember as a kid, is that Mark's performing persona is quite gruff and not immediately friendly. I always found that to be quite unusual. Still - it is obviously quite memorable...


Quite gruff and not immediately friendly? Yep. That sounds like me. I am like the devil incarnate when I am selling svengali decks. If you have ever sold svengali decks for an extended period you will probably figure out why even if you don't follow that persona yourself. Howard Thurston used to jump up and down before his show saying, "I love my audience" Not me. Every day I go to work selling svengali decks I jump up and down saying "I hate these bastards with every ounce of my being. The dirty vermin are walking around with my money in their pockets and I want it back"

Not when I am performing regular close up magic though. You would then see a different performing persona entirely. Charming, seemingly absent minded and modest. Just an act of course. But don't confuse the nasty, growling grafter with the nice charming magician. Two different things. Jeckyll and Hyde actually.

I wonder which mall Joe saw me work in. If he can name it I may be able to confirm it. Was it in the UK or Canada? I have sold svengali decks in 5 countries. The two mentioned are probably the likeliest.

As for being an amateur they DEFINITELY get more fun out of it (in general anyway) than the professional. I have always said that as soon as money enters the picture the fun goes out of it. I ENVY amateurs and find it ironic that they often envy professionals.

And I never look down on amateur magicians in the same way that many professionals do. We NEED the amateurs. It is the amateurs usually who come up with the tricks and contribute to the art. Vernon was essentially an amateur as was Dr Daley. Possibly the greatest card trick of all time was invented by an amateur magician, Paul Curry and "Out of this World"

Again I never look down on amateur magicians. No. I detest all magicians equally. But for different reasons.
Mark.Lewis
 
Posts: 853
Joined: 09/12/09 07:18 AM

Postby Joe Mckay » 12/07/09 03:58 PM

Hi Mark,

It was in the Metro Centre here in the north-east of England. Not sure if it is in Gateshead or Newcastle...

Anyway - I discussed this with you in the past (via email) when I was trying to track down the George Blake version of 'Out Of This World' or maybe it was some other version. I can't remember...

Thanks for your input and it is interesting to hear that you have a different persona for when you are pitching versus when you are performing.

All the best,

Joe
Joe Mckay
 
Posts: 618
Joined: 04/13/08 06:56 AM

Postby Mark.Lewis » 12/07/09 10:55 PM

Oh yes. I do remember. And it was indeed me. I did indeed work the Metro Centre and I seem to remember it was in Gateshead. I remember it was in an indoor market which was not really part of the mall itself.

I must have worked in virtually ever part of the United Kingdom. There are very few cities there that I have not sold svengali decks in.

I wonder how many magicians I started off. I know Kimmo (John Kimmons) purchased a deck from me when he was around 7 years old or at least his mother did. Last year he won the world champion (according to Derek Lever anyway) children's entertainer of the year. Naturally Jolly Roger got nowhere at all in the same competition. He claims it was because of his posh accent. And just as I type this I am reminded that HE also purchased a pack from me at Bingley Hall, Birmingham when he was 16 years old. I think that is what started him on magic too. Since he is only 5 years younger than me I suppose I must have been 21 at the time. I have been selling those bloody cards rather a long time.
Mark.Lewis
 
Posts: 853
Joined: 09/12/09 07:18 AM

Postby Joe Mckay » 12/09/09 06:52 PM

One other thing... I think the approach I give at the beginning is particularly useful when reading through complete files of magic magazines. I always do it this way. It just doesn't seem possible to go about recording and learning all the things you like from a magazine without it. I have files of magazines that I have read many times - but without my little 'guides' I would be clueless as to where anything is. I just couldn't imagine tackling my files of THE PHOENIX, IBIDEM, APOCALYPSE and THE CRIMP without them. I mention this since they are the magazines I found most benefited from this approach...

Joe

PS With big files of magazines I tend to combine the first and second step. As such - I keep a pen and paper handy during my first read through. Then I can jot down the page number of any interesting effects as I come across them. This is because it is often difficult to go back and then skim read through a complete file of magazines. Magazines aren't like books, and it is very easy to overlook stuff...
Joe Mckay
 
Posts: 618
Joined: 04/13/08 06:56 AM


Return to Reference Room

cron