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Card College, Volume 5 Review

Official Review

August 5th, 2003 1:51pm
Reviewed by David Parr
Some years ago, Roberto Giobbi took upon himself the daunting task of creating "a complete course in sleight-of-hand card magic," and if one harbored doubts about whether such an enormous undertaking could be accomplished, Mr. Giobbi (with the able assistance of Stephen Minch, among others) has by now assuaged all doubts and exceeded all expectations.

Anyone who has read volumes one through four of Card College probably has the fifth book on his or her shelf, or has reserved a place for it there. If you haven't read the previous books and are considering diving into the series with this latest volume, I wouldn't recommend doing so. Volume five is a synthesis of what has come before: Techniques taught previously, along with some new ones, are here placed in the context of complete card routines. Rather than backtrack over old ground, the author assumes the reader is familiar with material covered in the first four volumes.

The fifth book in the series continues the high quality of instruction established in the previous volumes. Explanations are well-reasoned and thorough. Illustrations (provided by Giobbi's wife Barbara) are useful and clear. Notes that might have presented a significant digression from the main thrust of the text -- e.g., variations in technique, subtleties of psychology or presentation -- are reserved for boxed sections following each routine. A wide variety of card magic is represented: gambling effects, psychic effects, routines with gimmicked cards, some glimpsing techniques, a Monte routine, a study of the Charlier Shuffle, a section on four ace routines. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

I have the distinct sense that any compliment I pay this book will have been vigorously expressed elsewhere, so I'll put it simply: Roberto Giobbi has set the current gold standard for instruction in card technique. This volume and those that preceded it are must-reads for anyone interested in the vast and tangled subject of card magic.

Now that I've sufficiently conveyed the significance of this book, I'm going to voice two criticisms. I do this not to dissuade people from buying the book -- indeed, anyone who intends to make a study of card magic should own all five volumes of this series -- but because I believe the task of a critic is to offer something more than a simple thumbs up or thumbs down verdict. If you are interested only in whether or not to purchase this book or any of the other Card College books, you may stop reading this and go buy them.

In his introduction, Mr. Giobbi opines that card magic is "arguably the most intelligent form of conjuring." Coming from an illustrious author, such a statement invites casual acceptance. It barely registers a blip on the mental radar screen before the eyes move on to the next sentence. But let's stop to consider it for a moment. Is card magic really the most "intelligent" form of conjuring? Isn't this the same as the oft-made claim that mentalism is the most "adult" form of magic? What sort of evidence could one produce to support such a statement? Is surrealism in painting more "intelligent" than realism? Is classical music more "mature" than jazz? It seems to me that claiming any particular style within an artistic medium is superior to another is not only pointless, it's detrimental to creative expression and the continued growth of the art form.

My second criticism concerns the final chapter of the book. The author has elected to conclude this volume with a catalogue of disconnected laugh lines, gags and comic asides, some culled from his own repertoire, some credited to other performers. Had these lines appeared in the context of scripts, they might have illustrated how the author goes about conveying a sense of onstage character, or how he approaches issues of timing and judicious use of humor, or how he constructs an effective script. But reduced to a list of dislocated gags and lines, they are illustrative of nothing. I understand that Mr. Giobbi had good intentions here. His hope, as explained in the book, is that performers will use these lines only as a starting point, and that they will eventually "find their own material." But however honorable the author's intentions may have been, this strikes me as akin to offering a member of Overeaters Anonymous a big bag of cookies in the hope that he will stop eating them. In my opinion, the material in this concluding chapter is not in keeping with the high standard set by the rest of the Card College series, and it should have been left out.

I suppose some may consider the above criticisms to be trivial, and perhaps under different circumstances these issues wouldn't have bothered me as much. But their appearance in an otherwise superb work made them all the more jarring, like an orchestra playing sour notes in the first and final bars of a favorite symphony. Nevertheless, the merits of the Card College series far outweigh any flaw. These five books represent an outstanding achievement in magic literature, and Roberto Giobbi deserves every compliment he has received (as does everyone else involved). One need not be a seer to predict that all five volumes will be rewarding students of card magic for generations to come.

Product info for Card College, Volume 5

Author: Giobbi, Roberto
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $40.00
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Manufacturer's Description:

It's finally here ! In the fifth volume of the acclaimed Card College series, Roberto Giobbi has prepared a graduation party! In previous volumes the reader has been given a remarkable collection of tools for creating astonishing card magic. In the same vein, Volume 5 begins with a meaty chapter of new techniques and strategies, which include methods for covertly arranging stacks during performance, obtaining a duplicate of a spectator's signature with his knowledge, and secretly conveying cards to and from the deck-powerful tools indeed.

But then Volume 5 diverges from the established Card College formula. Judging that the reader now has more than a sufficient number of tools in his grasp, Mr. Giobbi provides eight chapters filled with tricks and routines that illustrate how various techniques are applied to create world-class card magic. These effects, however, are not mere constructions meant for teaching. Most have been drawn from Roberto Giobbi's professional repertoire-and because of this, even the classics of card magic are given a fresh gleam as Giobbi adds refinements won from years of performing experience.

His choice of material is impeccable, featuring not only original effects and handlings of his own, but tricks and routines by world-masters as well. One finds such gems as Fred Kaps' presentation for The Signed Card in Box, along with Giobbi's cunning treatment of this modern classic, Henry Christ's fabulous Ace routine and a superb handling of a forgotten masterpiece by Charlie Miller. And everything is taught with the clarity and attention to detail for which the Card College series has become known. Open this book and welcome to the party-prepare to graduate! Some of the topics covered in Volume Five include:

* Making Secret Setups
* False Shuffles
* Obtaining Duplicate Signatures
* Quick Tricks
* Openers and Routines with the Aces
* Favorite Effects
* Gambling Demonstrations
* Mental Mysteries

All in all, Volume Five features 34 professional-caliber routines that have astounded audiences the world over!

Available from your favorite magic dealer.

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