Mnemonica Review

Discuss products and their reviews in Genii.

Postby Steve Mills » 08/23/04 05:46 PM

I really enjoy product reviews - more than I should actually.

Am I the only one disappointed when an entire column is taken up with one review, such as Jamy Swiss' review of Mnemonica?

I'm sure that it was well researched and certainly it was written with a lot of passion, but I guess I would prefer the Cliff Notes version.

Comments?

Later....
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Postby Brian Marks » 08/23/04 08:33 PM

your post is a little long. My attention span waivered at the end there. The review basically says buy it.
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Postby Erik Hemming » 08/23/04 08:53 PM

I'm trying to think of a way of saying this politely....

I guess I'll do it...politely....

I thought the Swiss review was matched to the nature of what he was reviewing.

He was reviewing a protracted tome on an esoteric concept, elaborately extrapolated and expansively detailed by one of magic's most profound theoreticians and performers.

If the review was difficult to wade through, most likely, you accurately self-selected against buying the book.

(Granted, Tamariz is apt to be more poetic and effusive than Swiss...but still, in all likelihood...if you didn't like the review, you wouldn't like the book.)

More to the point: The use of Cliff's notes and the use of a full deck stack are, inherently, mutually exclusive. If you enjoy one, you don't enjoy the other. So, if you disliked the review, you'll probably loathe the book.

Just a thought....

Gordo
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Postby Guest » 08/23/04 10:03 PM

Yo can win a free copy of Mnemonica at Martin Joyals web:
http://www.joyalstack.com/
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Postby Matthew Field » 08/24/04 11:14 AM

I think I read Steve Mills' comment as his wanting more books covered per issue of Genii. That is, in some way, in keeping with the nature of our society, as Bob Marley put it, "What you got, want more, want more."

The Tamariz book is one of the most eagerly awaited volumes in the last 10 years. Jamy gave it the gravitas it deserves, in my opinion. Genii is the only magic magazine with the respect for its subject matter and its readers to allow him the space to do so.

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Postby Steve Mills » 08/24/04 12:01 PM

Originally posted by Matthew Field:
I think I read Steve Mills' comment as his wanting more books covered per issue of Genii.

Matt Field
Matt,

Thank you for the reply to the post. I was just trying to start a discussion, but was met with ridicule. I appreciate you courteous response.

To the other clowns - I have 22 years of schooling and can not only read, but could have written the review!! My point was that I think most readers of Genii would prefer more items and that a review of this length and depth was of interest to a very limited audience.

sm
The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog. – Mark Twain
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Postby Erik Hemming » 08/24/04 02:28 PM

Steve-

My sincere apologies....

You caught me at a bad moment, and in my comments, I went for the easy slam rather than a protracted chew. (As a lover of literature--fine and foul, both--the phrase "Cliff's Notes" gets my dander up faster than a swift kick to the shins. But that's my burden, not yours.)

By the way, I didn't mean to impugn your intelligence, your abilities or your educational attainment. I don't think I did. If you think I did, I apologize for the incivility.

But, as I understand your first comment, I still disagree.

I LIKE that Genii offers short, punchy reviews when they are warranted.

I LIKE MORE that Genii takes the time and concerted effort to offer thoughtful, extended coverage on items that warrant it.

I appreciate that they make the distinction, and that the reviews are--in the vast majority of cases--suitable to the item being reviewed.

If you are suggesting that Genii institute something like Michael Close's "Hemidemisemiquavers", I could buy into that, provided that the editorial policy on reviews didn't laspe totally into "Blurbland."

Steve, I want to thank you for bringing this up as a topic. It's a rare and wonderful thing to be able to talk about what we're looking for in a magazine with other readers, in a forum hosted by the publisher. (We may not change--or even influence--Richard's stance, but at least he knows what we're thinking.)

Thanks for taking the risk in offering an opinion. I appreciate the dialouge.

Clownishly,

Gordo
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 08/24/04 03:35 PM

I have great respect for Jamy's ability as both a writer and book critic. Personally, I prefer reviews that are not 5000 words long. I don't do memorized deck tricks and they hold no interest for me whatsoever, so this particular review REALLY holds no interest for me. AND, you're reading the CUT version of the review--it was actually longer upon initial submission.
That said, and my personal preferences aside, there are MANY guys who are vitally interested in using a memorized deck--this has become a fad in the last ten years. The book will sell extremely well, and my congratulations in advance to the publisher. It deserves a lengthy critique, even if some of us aren't necessarily interested in the subject that month. This is no different than what we experience in magazines in the real world: when a film critic reviews a movie I am not interested in, I simply don't read the review that issue.
I do NOT make a regular habit of publishing reviews that long, and one of the great things about having seven different reviewers on staff is that you get a diversity of opinions, and the reviews are often written at lengths which reflect the tastes of the individual reviewer.
Another thing to consider, folks, is that there just aren't many books coming out that deserve to be reviewed. We have piles and piles of DVDs and tricks backed up for our reviews, but we must scratch around for literature.
A sad statement of the times.
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Postby Dave Shepherd » 08/24/04 05:23 PM

[...crawling out of prolonged lurk mode...]

I agree with both Gordon and Matt on this.

I treasure the review section of Genii, and particularly both Jamy's and David's book reviews, because they offer much more than short and sweet summaries.

Jamy's essays, in particular, are not just often, but regularly and predictably, much more than book reviews. They are usually extended discussions of the history, theory, and/or practical application of the topic, theme, or author of the book being discussed.

I've disagreed with Jamy's opinions more than once. (Mine was the first letter to the editor in the Kaufman era, I believe, taking very strong issue with a review of Jamy's.) But I am very grateful that Genii offers Jamy a bimonthly forum so that he can educate me about the art of magic.

I ordered Mnemonica the day I read Jamy's review of it. I'm one of those memdeck nerds who's been waiting for this book for years. Its appearance in English really is a very big deal.

[...sliding back into lurk mode so I can do Mike Close\'s memdeck exercise ... Wish I could afford to attend Stack Clinic, but oh well...]
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Postby Steve Hook » 08/24/04 06:47 PM

Steve:

I enjoyed the in-depth review. And I didn't miss the appearance of more, shorter reviews.

I hear your pain, Brother, but this is my opinion.

Steve
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Postby Dave Shepherd » 08/25/04 02:57 AM

Originally posted by Dave Shepherd:
...and particularly both Jamy's and David's book reviews...
Whoops! Uh oh! I mean Jamy's and David's and Eric's!

I forgot there are three book reviewers. And I really do read each and every word they all three write. :D

[...back to lurk. If the JC is on the bottom, then the 4S is fourth down from the top...]
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Postby Bob Farmer » 08/25/04 09:11 AM

For posterity, here is a shorter review:

Mnemonica knockoutonica.
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Postby Jeffrey Cowan » 08/26/04 12:01 PM

Jamy's review illustrates why I subscribe to Genii. When books come along that warrant such treatment (whether good or bad), I'm delighted that Genii provides the space for such comprehensive commentary.
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Postby Kamus » 08/28/04 07:26 AM

Richard said:
there just aren't many books coming out that deserve to be reviewed. We have piles and piles of DVDs and tricks backed up for our reviews, but we must scratch around for literature.
A sad statement of the times.

It seems that not long ago we were oversaturated with new books coming out every month-how quickly times change!

As for the topic, I appreciate Jamy's reviews but think they could be remain in-depth and yet be a little more concise-as erudite as Jamy obviously is, I find his sprawling discources a bit undisciplined. Often times, I'll read half of one his reviews, enough to realize it's worth buying. I'll buy the product then go back and read the entire review which is helpful in getting the most out of the given book. A backwards way of doing things but a lot of times the reviews make more sense after the fact.

Also Richard talks about the backlog of DVDs and tricks. I've always wished there were a lot more trick and video reviews both in Genii and Magic. The fact is we are deluged with tantalising ads in every issue yet only a tiny fraction are ever reviewed which is frustrating as we all know what a minefield the magic marketplace is.
I'll bet a lot of magicians would subscribe to a publication devoted solely to reviews-I know I would.

Sorry for my own undisciplined and sprawling discourse!
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Postby Joe M. Turner » 08/28/04 09:01 AM

Wait till you see my 3500 words on the D'Lite instructional video...

JMT
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Postby Bill Duncan » 08/28/04 11:38 AM

Originally posted by Dave Kane:
I'll bet a lot of magicians would subscribe to a publication devoted solely to reviews-I know I would.
Fortunately you don't have to subscribe to read the reviews: http://www.mylovelyassistant.com

My initial concern about the site (that "user" reviews were of poor quality) has been mitigated by the addition of several new "staff" reviewers.
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Postby Guest » 08/28/04 03:39 PM

I'll be keeping this review for later reference....
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Postby NCMarsh » 08/28/04 07:12 PM

Personally, I would have preferred the uncut version -- Jamy is an expert on the branch of conjuring treated in Mnemonica. His views not only inform a decision on purchasing the book but themselves constitute valuable education on the subject matter and on conjuring in general.

best,

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Postby Kamus » 08/29/04 11:06 AM

OK Jamy's essays are valuable and educational but they stretch the notion of what traditionally constitues a review. Maybe he needs a new title for his column "valuable education on the subject matter and on conjuring in general"
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Postby Matthew Field » 08/29/04 11:32 AM

Originally posted by Dave Kane:
Maybe he needs a new title for his column "valuable education on the subject matter and on conjuring in general"
Isn't that what a good review is supposed to give you? I think a well written review should be entertaining and informative even to readers who will not purchase/view/use the product under review. That's what Jamy does. It is what I have tried to do during my last five years writing for Genii.

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Postby Alain Roy » 08/31/04 10:42 AM

Steve Mills wrote: Am I the only one disappointed when an entire column is taken up with one review, such as Jamy Swiss' review of Mnemonica?

I too was disappointed, but for a slightly different reason. I thoroughly enjoyed the lengthy review. I would have enjoyed a few more long reviews tossed in too, but I suppose that Mr. Swiss didn't have time write more reviews, and Mr. Kaufman didn't have space to publish more. But I would have enjoyed them.

For that matter, I'm always a bit sad when I finish reading an issue of Genii because I would enjoy reading more. It's perfected what many magicians try to do: leave your audiences happy and wanting more.

I can understand why some people wouldn't like to have such a long review. I found it instructive and entertaining, personally.

-alain
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Postby Bob Farmer » 08/31/04 11:09 AM

Frankly, I'd prefer longer reviews of fewer books, not shorter reviews of more books.
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Postby Matthew Field » 08/31/04 02:24 PM

Originally posted by Bob Farmer:
Frankly, I'd prefer longer reviews of fewer books, not shorter reviews of more books.
I'd prefer short books with long reviews, or tall women in short skirts.

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Postby NCMarsh » 08/31/04 03:45 PM

they stretch the notion of what traditionally constitues a review
not at all...take a gander at the New York Times Book Review -- each piece is roughly the size of a Swiss review (frequently larger) and constitutes a reasonably substantial reflection on the content of the reviewed work (as an example, this week's review of the report of the 9/11 commission takes up 7 webpages....)ditto for the The New Yorker...

Indeed, though I'm not familiar with his work, my understanding is that Jorge Luis Borges would often write reviews of imagined books...merely as a vehicle for reflecting on a set of ideas that merited a book-length treatment without having to write the book (and with the ability to comment on the work in a way impossible internally)...

A review is not merely a summary or a recommendation; it is a thoughtful response to a work that can be successfully read independently of that work.

regards,

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Postby Guest » 08/31/04 04:14 PM

It sounds like an incredible book! I can't wait to get my hands on one!
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Postby Bob Farmer » 08/31/04 05:28 PM

With the mention of Borges above this discussion has now entered a completely different and much higher plane ...
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Postby BlueEyed Videot » 08/31/04 05:39 PM

Perhaps, Bob, but could Borges do a decent bottom deal?
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Postby Guest » 08/31/04 06:54 PM

Being new to the subject, truly enjoyed Jamy's robust review and the amount of personal expertise/insights he's able to share. That's one of the nice things about Genii -- large enough publication to give the occasional topic more real estate without having to scrimp on other areas within that issue.

Keep up the great work!

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Postby Erik Hemming » 08/31/04 07:03 PM

Perhaps, Bob, but could Borges do a decent bottom deal?
Suprisingly, yes!

He was also quite extraordinary with a card punch.

Sadly, he only used his talent to cheat at solitaire....


Puckishly,

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Postby magicam » 09/16/04 03:00 AM

Richard wrote:
*****
"... there just aren't many books coming out that deserve to be reviewed ... [a] sad statement of the times."
*****

Well there's always my book, Richard :D (yeah, yeah, I know, it has limited appeal...)

Regarding Mnemonica, I bought it for the "Bibliography (With Commentary)" in the back of the book. Nice to see Tamariz acknowledge his roots for this effort. Now, I haven't read any review of this book (including Swiss'), but am wondering how many of you out there thought that the quality of the photographs in the book was pretty poor, all things considered? There may be a good reason for this, so maybe somebody can comment?

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Postby Guest » 09/16/04 09:25 AM

Personally i would prefer to see more reviews than just one...normally! However in Mnemonica's case that goes out of the window.
I think one of the best things about Jamy's review was that i was gripped! Not due to Jamy's writting (not that it is not good), but by the description of what is going to be such an amazing book. The suspense was so great that i felt as though i already had the book, and that i was actually reading it at that moment. i read the whole review, which is strange for such a topic that i am not overly interested in (stacks has never been one of my specialities). Similar was the review of Christian Fechner's book on Robert Houdin, that recieved a huge review...again it deserved it.
Although i said that i am not overly interested in Stacks, i am going to buy the book...I am intrigued by Tamariz, and would not miss this book for the world...if i am going to learn a stack at some point during my life, i might as well learn it whilst i am still young!
owen :)
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Postby Jim Morton » 09/16/04 09:40 AM

I'm with Bob Farmer on this one.

Jamy Ian Swiss's reviews are not simple "buy/don't buy" statements. For that matter, I'm not sure that calling them "reviews" does them justice. Rather than answer the question "Should I buy this book?" Mr. Swiss uses the space to address some of the bigger issues and questions that a book can bring up. If it is a book about stage management, then Mr. Swiss talks about what that concept means to him, as well as what has been printed in the past on the subject. If it is a book about a certain magician, then Mr. Swiss examines the book based on how well it is researched and what the author has overlooked.

In the end, a Jamy Ian Swiss review is a bit like sitting down with him and dicussing that particular book. In the case of Mnemonica, he is talking about memorized decks; a subject that gets very little magazine space as a rule. He can be forgiven for going on a bit on the subject then.

Like Richard, I'm not one for memorized decks. I'm more of a Si Stebbins kind of guy, but Swiss's review was thorough enough to pique my interest in the contents. If the review had simply said, "Theis a great book for anyone interested in memorized deck work," I probably would not have looked twice at the book. But Mr. Swiss's review went on to explain the value of the book beyond the Tamariz stack, so now I'm curious. He also addresssed the issue of memorization. Most of us (I suspect) have, at one time or another, sat down and memorized the Aronson stack. Maybe we use it or maybe we decided to switch to something easier to keep track of and easier to get into (in my case, I chose Si Stebbins largely due to Darwin Ortiz's Si Stebbins Secret). Mr. Swiss addresses these issues as well.

Just my opinion.

Jim
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Postby Pete McCabe » 09/17/04 12:08 AM

(Nathan Coe Marsh)

Indeed, though I'm not familiar with his work, my understanding is that Jorge Luis Borges would often write reviews of imagined books...merely as a vehicle for reflecting on a set of ideas that merited a book-length treatment without having to write the book (and with the ability to comment on the work in a way impossible internally)...
Stanislaw Lem, the greatest science fiction writer known to me, wrote Imaginary Magnitude, a book of introductions to other -- fictional -- books. The structure is a perfect vehicle for the kind of commentary Lem delights in. It's also a natural for Lem's self-referential bent; the book has an introduction, on the subject of writing introductions for books.
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 09/17/04 02:59 PM

McCabe wrote: Stanislaw Lem, the greatest science fiction writer known to me, wrote Imaginary Magnitude, a book of introductions to other -- fictional -- books. The structure is a perfect vehicle for the kind of commentary Lem delights in. It's also a natural for Lem's self-referential bent; the book has an introduction, on the subject of writing introductions for books.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Don't overlook Lem's THE PERFECT VACUUM, which is a collection of reviews of non-existent books. This is what inspired me to write a review of BEYOND ERDNASE. I had dozens of readers desiring this book.

I also wrote a review of a book (which shall remain nameless) that was longer than the book itself.

Onward...
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Postby Guest » 09/17/04 05:40 PM

When a major work like Mnemonica is released , it deserves to get the kind of space that Jamy gave it. Didn't bother me a bit. Loved it, in fact.

But, I don't like the notion that a book, video, or trick has to be at some minimum level of quality to warrant review. Not that a poor product should get much room. But, it is valuable to the readers to let us know about substandard products. We can put our $$$ into other things.

Perhaps Joe and Jamy could have a simple list in their column's stating: the following items were received for review and are NOT recommended:

Dennis Loomis
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Postby Guest » 09/19/04 09:54 AM

Jamy, like Rachembaumer, is simply one of the most literate, loaded with knowledge of fields even way outside magic (is that heresy?), and is certainly one of the most gifted writers around. HIs work has literary merit. I would rather read a review by him or Jon than any other reading in the world--and, I have read and known some world reknowned writers.
The only problem is that he often does not get enough space to really let go. I'm kiddinig of course; I'm sure he writes voluminously and then edits and re-edits (as all great wrtierrs do)until the final text is a well honed masterpiece.
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Postby Guest » 09/19/04 10:01 AM

Rich K,
You cut part of Jamy's review? MAY I HAVE IT?
Marty
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Postby NCMarsh » 09/19/04 10:38 AM

You cut part of Jamy's review? MAY I HAVE IT?
Marty
ditto.

warmly,

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Postby James » 09/20/04 05:43 AM

Richard,

I realize in the magazine you're limited on space and must cut the length of article to fit the format. But is there any way you can post Jamie's complete reviews on the Web -- where space limitations wouldn't seem to be an issue.

I too would love to see what was cut, not just from this review, but the rest of the reviews. Each of Jamie's reviews is like a mini-history lesson and, even if I have no interest in the book he's reviewing, I always learn something new about the art.

J
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Postby Guest » 09/20/04 06:25 AM

A lot of people subscribe to Genii just for the reviews...
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