Magic in Print (Fiction)

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Postby sleightly » 10/10/02 05:26 AM

Reading Tragic Wand by James Tucker, a low-brow, pulpish work that features Jack Merlin, a doctor/surgeon who is known for his dabbles in magic.

This is the third book (that I am aware of), with the other titles being Hocus Corpus and Abra Cadaver. Both books could be considered light summer reading and the stories are moderately entertaining if contrived.

One thing strikes me as excessive. In order to appear, "in the know", and to provide some specific details to indicate Merlin's prowess ar magic, Tucker repeatedly describes technique during passages in which Merlin is performing. In Tragic Wand, he describes in great detail the construction of the rough/smooth deck and how it is used to force a card. This card is then used in a torn & restored playing card (on which he has written the patient's name). The text describes the set up of the dupe card prior to the performance, the rough/smooth deck, and the combination of the two.

This happens several times in each of the books, and Tucker also mentions several "notables" by name, perhaps to impress the magicians who read the books (like a layman will know who Slydini is, though sadly they do not).

As far as I can see, this information does little to further the plot, exposes simple technique/standard gaffs that laymen have no need to know about and only succeeds in lowering the level of regard by the lay public by reinforcing the perception that "all we do are tricks" and "it's all about the secrets."

Merlin does use the performances to set patients at ease, but each piece is somewhat trivialized or used in a way that would not likely be used. The aforementioned "trick" is used to hypnotize a twelve-year-old.

Huh? I have a hard time believing that most twelve-year-olds are going to go into a trance by watching a T&R card trick...

Wait a minute, I think I see what is going on. Merlin is making a satirical commentary about the state of performance magic and how so many performers put their audiences to sleep... (Of course, not us or anyone we know, but rather everyone else.)

I get it!

Maybe.

I'm curious of anyone else's thoughts about these books...

ajp
sleightly
 
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