Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Hiding the Elephant

Jim Steinmeyer, Hiding the Elephant
When I was a young tyke, I watched an automobile race on the boob tube with my uncle John. No NASCAR or Formula One or Indy for us. It was some contest of rabbits--VW Rabbits. (Remember them? The modern update of the Beetle, with none of the charm.) Unwittingly, uncle John precipitated my demise into skepticism by pointing at the screen and saying, "See their tails?" I looked everywhere for cotton, but saw none, and protested. "No, look!" he said. "Look--there they are!" Radical doubt was minutes away.

With that random anecdote, I introduce Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear. Warning: if you are a true believer in Magic, stay away. In fact, if you think that analysis is inherently destructive, and that knowledge ruins art, do not read this book. Steinmeyer's survey of the history of famous (and lesser-known) stage magicians not only tells the stories and reveals the secrets, but includes photos and diagrams. Steinmeyer doesn't just throw back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz, but subjects him to a colonoscopy and a dental exam. Recommended for aspiring magicians or casual fans.


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