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25 Magic Books: Performance and Philosophy


This article is from the Magic FAQ, by Paul Nielsen nielsen@vulture.eecs.umich.edu with numerous contributions by others.

25 Magic Books: Performance and Philosophy

Burger, Eugene Experience of Magic
(1989, Kaufman & Greenberg)

[SD] Well-known for his thoughtfulness about performing, Burger does
offer routines and magic effects, but goes to great lengths to talk
about the feeling and spirit with which they should be presented.
Along with people like Fitzkee and Tamariz, Burger should be of
interest to people who want to read the opinions of someone on how to
present magic.

[RD] Highest recommendation. Mr. Burger asks "What do we want people
to experience when we show them a magic trick?" Is "I've been fooled"
the same as "I feel stupid"? Must we always go for laughs, or can we
evoke other emotions and still achieve entertainment? READ THIS BOOK.

Burger, Eugene The Performance of Close-up Magic
(1990(?), Kaufman & Greenberg)

[SD] I liked the latter half of the book starting with Chapter 10 on
Magic Lectures. I'm sure folks might like the rest, but I liked his
narratives and opinions best in this book.

Burger, Eugene Craft of Magic
(1984, Willmarth)

[RD] I like all of Mr. Burger's books. He writes about how to be a
magician, not just how to do tricks. He talks a lot in this book
about the value of proper practice and rehearsal. Sound obvious? Ok,
explain the difference between practice and rehearsal.

Burger, Eugene Secrets and Mysteries of the Close-up Entertainer
(1982, Willmarth)

[RD] Another good one. The secrets and mysteries are not "where to
put your left index finger while doing the diagonal palm shift", but
"where to put your brain".

Carey, Chris Find the Stuff That's You
(1989, Show-Pro Team)

[RD] I read this once and said "It's content-free". I read it again
and said "I think he's saying something, but I don't know what". I
read it again and said "Oh! Oh! Oh!" I guess I'm just slow.
Seriously, it rewards re-reading, if you have the patience.

Fitzkee, Dariel Trick Brain, The
(19??, Lee Jacobs Productions)

[SD] One of a set of three books on "conjuring psychology" and how to
"think" magic. Most of what I liked was his division of effects into
categories and then definition of ways to perform such effects (not in
detail but generally the kind of look-and-feel the audience would
get). Though several kinds of effects might be called, for example,
"levitations," they may appear differently to audiences based on what
technique is used. An almost academic book classifying magic effects.

Galloway, Andrew Diverting Card Magic
(1980, Galloway)

[RD] Actually a discussion of the techniques of attention control (as
in misdirection etc) as practiced by the great John Ramsay. Mr.
Galloway makes his points and illustrates with workable tricks that
require some skill (you don't need misdirection if you're not doing
anything), but his point is not how to do the sleights invisibly, but
how to prevent the spectator from ever becoming suspicious.

Kurtz, Gary Misdirection and Direction
(1990, Kurtz)

[SD] Subtitled "Keys to the Amplification of the Magic Effect," this
is an unusual little booklet on presentation and audience "control."

[RD] Worth reading, especially for the thoughts on timing and
"creating the moment" at which the audience's attention is off your

Nelms, Henning Magic and Showmanship
(1969, Dover)

[SD] Mainly advice about many aspects of performing magic which uses
effects to illustrate performance points rather than to teach the

[RD] Makes a nice companion to Mr. Burger's "Experience of Magic".
Nelms argues in favour of consistency - for example, at any given
venue, you should not pretend to be both a psychic and a magician,
since this breaks the over-all illusion.

[SFD] Remarkable! The magic isn't too impressive, but the stuff about
presentation, choosing a character to play on stage, the role of the
audience, roles of volunteers, ... I found indispensable. If you like
Mike Close and Eugene Burger on performing philosophy, look this guy

Roper, Steve Comedy Magic Textbook
(1986, Snowflake)

[RD] Some people take extreme exception to Mr. Roper's claim that
comedy magic is "easier" than other kinds. However, here's a little
experiment you might try: attend an improvisational theatre session,
and observe how many of the scenes are comedic rather than dramatic.
I think that what Mr. Roper is saying is that everyone has some
innate ability to be humourous (especially with self-directed humour),
while not everyone has the intuitive ability to act out a serious
role. In this book, Mr. Roper does a fair job of explaining how he
creates some of his comedy magic (which reads as though it would
indeed be very funny).

Tamariz, Juan Five Points in Magic, The
(19??, Frakson)

[SD] Using your body in presenting magic: the eyes, the voice, the
hands, the body, and the feet. Basically discusses how to present
yourself physically to be more effective. In particular, it focuses
on misdirection (and direction) of the audience using your body.

[PH] Mike Close wrote if you do not own and read everything published
by Juan Tamariz, shame on you! "The Five Points in Magic" is very
good though very pricey. It is mostly a discourse on misdirection
and controlling the perceptions of your audience...

[FD] I was standing in line waiting to pay the $35+ for "THE FIVE
POINTS OF MAGIC" after the lecture. The man is a genius when it
comes to magic and misdirection. The book is theory, not tricks.
But I almost think that it should be bought AFTER you see him
perform. You won't appreciate it as much if you purchase it
before. At 85 pgs, I think it's definitely worth the money, but
only because I've seen him perform and admire him tremendously.


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