|The 80’s Called…They Want Their Magic Book Back by Jonathan Friedman harkens back to the 80’s and the irreverent style of writing from that time, an approach popularized by Paul Harris. It’s also a testament to the “magic book” in general, a species becoming more rare by the day, slowly being replaced by downloads and one-trick DVD’s. But it’s also simply a magic book, filled with fun effects using props and presentations that are off the beaten path.
If you’ve never heard of Jonathan Friedman, it’s because he’s a lifelong magician who has spent most of his career as a professional musician. However, like many dedicated amateurs, his lack of professional experience has not resulted in a lack of quality in the material. Even better, to make certain the routines taught are truly field-tested, several professional magicians friends of his offered to perform some of the tricks found in the book on their audiences. The material taught also includes contributions from other performers, including John Guastaferro, Cameron Francis, Shaun Dunn, Francis Menotti, Steve Mayhew and Joe Cole.
The routines taught all share several things in common, starting with a playful, interesting premise and a full script. In general the presentations are fun and, at times, silly, so they won’t work for everyone. However, they are well written and have some very funny moments, so even if one doesn’t copy the author verbatim, there is something to be gleaned from each. And the fact that Mr. Friedman has taken the time to create a hook and a fun premise for every routine is a testament to the effort and time he has clearly put into the material.
The routines are also different than what one might expect. In addition to cards and coins, there are effects using keys, popcorn, a magic eraser, and a plastic spoon. Beyond variety of prop, he also gives familiar plots a unique twist. For example, his two-card transposition uses the similarity between the words “here” and “there” to motivate the transposition, and the script for his copper/silver routine describes a competition between Washington and Lincoln. By and large, the material is accessible, commercial, practical and entertaining.
While many of the routines use familiar moves, there are also a number of new sleights taught, both with coins and cards, offering some interesting ideas. Of note is the fact that Mr. Friedman uses quarters and pennies in his coin routines, something that presumably evolved from his more casual, impromptu performances. All of the sleights are utilitarian, flexible and modular, including vanishes, transformations and productions, meaning that even if one doesn’t wish to perform a given routine, the sleights themselves could be independently of use.
The only real flaw in this book is the editing. There were a number of spelling and conjugation errors, as well as several times where “right” and “left” were reversed, which, particularly in a magic book, can make learning more difficult. It’s unfortunate that the quality of the content and the production were marred by a problem that could have easily been fixed with a little more review.
While many of the routines are fantastic, not all will be a home run for every reader, though there’s likely something of value that can be taken from each, whether it’s a move, a premise or a line. There are wonderful ideas throughout and while better editing would have helped a great deal, this is an entertaining book filled with interesting and offbeat material. If you like quirky, fun and practical magic, you’ll enjoy The 80’s Called…They Want Their Magic Book Back.