I loved this book!! The whole thing is absolutely fascinating and so well written. When I pulled this off my shelf to read, I remembered that Mark from HarperCollins had recommended it, but I hadn't remembered that it was a memoir. I wasn't sure I was going to like it or if I was in the mood for a memoir. I shouldn't have worried at all. It really was fantastic.
I loved that Stone delved into so much more than magic. His offered insight into the human brain and how it works with our eyes and hands. To become a magician, he not only attended several magic camps, workshops and seminars to learn about magic, but he also visited psychology labs, Las Vegas casinos and the streets of New York for 3 card Monte games in an effort to understand magic and illusions better.
Richard Turner's story was both amazing and inspiring. He's a blind magician who has absolutely mastered playing card manipulation. Through his story, Stone explains more about the brain, the fingers and how the blind see with their fingers. Amazing!
It shouldn't surprise anyone that magicians who do card tricks or close-up magic need strong, flexible hands. Stone briefly takes the reader through his Finger Fitness (page 91-93) routine, which is essentially calisthenics for the hands. These exercises are not just for magicians. They are for anyone who does a lot of stuff with their hands or for those who've experienced pain in the wrists and hands. I fall into both categories: I type, craft and play the flute and have suffered from some arthritis and repetitive stress pain in my hands. I'll definitely be looking into this fitness routine further.
In one part, Stone relays his disdain for mentalists, whom he calls dishonest liars. He explains how they do what they do, from mind reading to spoon bending, and how easy is for some of us to believe them. This has never been my favourite type of magic, but Stone's explanations were insightful and interesting.
One of my favourite parts of the book was the examination of the 3-card Monte games on the streets of New York. He describes them as a well-choreographed play with numerous "actors" rather than a game or magic trick on a street corner. It was absolutely fascinating. I won't go into any detail, but the bottom line: don't play...ever. You can't win, not even once.
Of course, you can't have a book called Fooling Houdini without covering the Ambitious Card trick that actually fooled Houdini. If you are interested, you can see lots of examples by Googling the name.
Stone even touches upon the fact that the as the world changes, magic, too, has to change. This is evident with the likes of Criss Angel and David Blaine. These new guys are ok, but I much prefer the style of someone like David Copperfield, who, in the grand scheme of magic, is still one of the "new" guys.
...most people have no clue how much skill and creativity and hard work goes into it, because magic is all about art concealing art. (page 137)
The next time I see a magic show or illusion, I won't have to wonder how it was all done. I'll know...basically. It's all done through a lot of hard work and years of training and practice. If nothing else, I'll definitely have a better appreciation for the magicians and their craft.
Highly recommended. I'll be talking about this book for months to come. Every other day or so I remember something that I read and say to my husband, "Do you remember that magic book I read...". He can't possibly forget because I must have said this a dozen times already. ;)
For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins website.
I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.
Fooling Houdini by Alex Stone, Harper (HarperCollins), ©2012. ISBN 9780061766213(Uncorrected Proof), 301p.