Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Great Magic Reads #1

Shattering Illusions by Jamy Ian Swiss

Jamy Ian Swiss is a professional magician, specializing in close up magic with cards. He is also an artist who has thought quite a lot about his chosen art form. Those thoughts, and the conclusions he has come to, are collected in the essays that make up Shattering Illusions.
And they are important thoughts.
Take the introductory essay, titles “Why Magic Sucks.” (A bold title at that.)
“The fundamental task of magic is that of fooling the audience. In fact, the most basic definition of magic might be this: To be a magician, one must fool the audience.
But the problem is that for far too long magicians have stopped at that sentence and gone no further.”
Really, does there need more to be said? But more he does say.
“… For fooling the audience is, in and of itself, no measure of greatness. A magician who has learned to fool the audience is little more than a musician who has mastered the scales, a painter who has learned his brushstrokes, an actor who has learned to remember his lines and not bump into the furniture.”
Yes, words that seem so simple that they shouldn’t even have to be said, but they do need to be said, for we all need a reminder that magic is greater than just a game of “Ha ha, fooled you.”
Yet this is only a beginning, for over the course of the book Swiss passionately gives voice to the need for honest scripting and the joy of card tricks as well as history lessons on, of all things, the rise of the magic bartender. (It’s a lesson more important to the history of American magic than you would think.)
And his essay on the “Too Perfect Theory” is necessary reading and should be handed out freely at every magic store with every sale.
Mr. Swiss is honest and passionate about his beliefs, and along the way you too will become passionate. He is a good teacher and all he asks is for us to be attentive students.
I am not going to give a rating here, but I am going to tell you that if you wish to be a serious student of magic, then you need to read Shattering Illusions.

This is where I say I have met Jamy Ian Swiss, and I did once many years ago at a lecture in Toronto. (Not his lecture.) He was crowded by people who wanted to see his Pass. (Only magicians would ask to see a move instead of a trick.) I took a moment to introduce myself to him and mentioned how much I enjoyed his writing.
“What I like best is that you not only inform but challenge me to think about what you have written.” (Yes, I am a bit of a suck up.)
“That is exactly what I try to do.” He replied.
Shattering Illusions informs you, challenges you and most of all makes you think deeply about you, as a magician, and the magic you do.


Blogger Billp said...

...and the book is available at one store, nation wide.

Seriously, do you have to go to the Browser's Den to get this, or will I be able to find it without spending the better part of the weekend on the TTC?

Or, do you know of any kind souls who might loan a friend a copy...


1:48 PM  

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