Roberto Giobbi on simplification

Discuss the views of your favorite Genii columnists.

Postby Guest » 11/01/02 02:49 PM

I enjoyed this column, as I have Mr. Giobbi's other contributions. One note: I've seen quotations along the lines of "I'm writing you a long letter because I don't have time to write a short one" variously attributed to Cicero, Blaise Pascal, and Samuel Clemens, as well as (in Giobbi's case) Goethe. I think the quotation dictionaries give the edge to Pascal. In any event, it's my favorite statement about the art of writing.

Giobbi's own comment that "simplification rarely strikes first" is pretty quotable in its own right.

Postby Guest » 11/06/02 09:34 PM

Giobbi has some great quotes in this article. I'd like to add one to the lot:

"Basically I think I'm a Minimalist.
But I keep trying to add as much stuff
as I can and still keep the sense."

Donald Sultan

Postby Lisa Cousins » 11/07/02 09:57 AM

Hi, Ralph.

Whether or not Mr. Clemens penned the quoted sentiment, he was certainly an admirer of literary brevity. Just the other night I was reading his essay concerning his friend William Dean Howells. In an essay on Machiavelli, Howells defends this noted cynic as "an idealist immersed in realities, who involuntarily transmutes the events under his eye into something like the visionary issues of reverie."

Twain praises this description thus:

"With a hundred words to do it with, the literary artisan could catch that airy thought and tie it down and reduce it to a concrete condition, visible, substantial, understandable and all right, like a cabbage; but the artist does it with twenty, and the result is a flower."
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Postby Matthew Field » 11/07/02 01:00 PM

Lisa -- you are amazing! A real sorceress!

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Postby Lisa Cousins » 11/07/02 03:52 PM

Okay, Matt - you've figured me out. Now get busy with those three wishes you've got coming.

As to the theme of the article - allowing the magic to speak for itself without burdening it with "meaningful" patter - this is something that's been on my mind for the past few weeks. The person responsible for this is Forum favorite David Acer, and my infatuation with his effect "Quartermain." For National Magic Week I performed thirty shows on a magic history theme, and I decided that I was going to add "Quartermain" to my program, if I had to force it in with a shoehorn and whack it with a mallet to make it stay put. I found a hook which was hopefully more elegant than the shoehorn-and-mallet approach, but I didn't really have any patter for the effect itself. I said my blah-blah-blah, and just presented it in a straightforward manner. It got lots of "oohs" and "aahs," certainly due in part to my own enjoyment of watching it work.

But National Magic Week ended, and I went to lunch on Monday with a friend, hoping to solicit his advice. I again presented it in a very basic manner, and said "What's the patter for that?"

He said "Let's see - you've got three coins - a trinity - say, body, mind, soul. You've got a world above, a world below, and an obstacle between them."

I was doubtful. "That much?"

He was confident. "Yep. You have to be saying things to distract guys like me, who otherwise are just going to sit there trying to figure out what you're doing."

Oh, I don't know....

Unlike David Acer, I decided not to draw any attention to the fact that I was using Canadian coins. Of the more than 600 people who saw it, only one noticed and asked me about it. I said "A Canadian magician invented this trick and taught it to me. Whenever somebody shows me how to do a trick, I put something in it to honor my teacher."

Which is also true.
Lisa Cousins
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Postby Guest » 11/08/02 04:54 AM

Lisa --
Love the Twain quote--thanks!

Postby Pete McCabe » 11/08/02 10:56 AM


The story about your honoring your teacher? That's your script. And don't worry about it being "meaningful" in the conventional sense -- it will be meaningful on a much higher level.
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Postby Lisa Cousins » 11/09/02 12:03 PM

Those are the just-right words, Pete. Thank you for the direction.

Lisa Cousins
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Postby Lisa Cousins » 11/19/02 10:32 AM

As a "small-world" P.S., the beloved friend in the above Quartermain story went to high school with Lisa Menna, and I finally had a chance to meet Lisa at the Yankee Gathering this past weekend. I got to hear how great he was back then, and she got to hear how great he is right now.
Lisa Cousins
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