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This Is Not A Book Review

Official Review

November 14th, 2008 11:35am
Reviewed by Gordon Meyer
If you enjoy Robert E. Neale's approach to magic, which you know through his long-running column in The Linking Ring, or because you're familiar with his other work, such as The Magic Mirror or Tricks of the Imagination, then you will adore this, his latest release.

As you'd expect from Hermetic Press, it's a finely produced book that is similar in tone and appearance to Life, Death, and Other Card Tricks. Unlike that book, however, this one focuses on magic with items other than playing cards.

For me, an avowed "Nealist," the opening essay is almost worth the price of admission by itself. In it, Neale explores the differences between wonder and magic, and he urges us to perform pieces that provide texture, meaning, and sometimes just thought-provoking nonsense for our audiences. The remainder of the book illustrates the essay perfectly, offering stories, tricks, and bits that amuse, entertain, and confound. It's not traditional magic, and for that, we owe Neale a debt of thanks.

There are magicians who just don't appreciate or understand Neale's approach. This book won't change their minds; although they're likely the ones who need it most. For the rest of us This Is Not A Book is another dose of inspiration.
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Product info for This Is Not A Book

Author: Robert Neale
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $47.00
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Manufacturer's Description:

Wonder and magic surround us, yet we need a guide to see them. Historically, that guide is the magician-and Robert E. Neale is the celebrated mapmaker for this terra incognita.

This new Neale collection explores the sphere of close-up magic without playing cards. In the process, it expands the borders of magic in ways never before seen. Neale takes magicians at their word when they claim their job is to provoke wonder in their audiences. As he explains in his introduction, "there are many effects ahead that are not tricks, because I am more interested in magic than I am in tricks."

Beginning with the title of his book, echoing Rene Magritte's famous comment on the deceptive quality of all art, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe," Neale begins to demonstrate how illusory our perception is and how fuzzy the borders are between the real and the unreal. Using uncomplicated sleights and props, he dares magicians to seek wonder in ways that are new and unexpected by both audiences and other magicians.

  • In Robin's Nest he recalls a youthful mistake and the miracle that resulted from it.
  • In Breaking Bread he resurrects an ancient Middle-Eastern ritual that produces an astonishing result and a humorous observation on the leaders of movements.
  • In The Treasure Hunt a woman makes a dream-journey to foreign lands that eventually leads her to just the right message to discover an elusive treasure.
  • In Countermanded someone receives a chilling message from the spirit world, and the unexpected ability to find humor in it.
  • In The First Mystery the true meaning of the events in the Garden of Eden is revealed with only six illustrated cards and an old sock.
  • An old puzzle, the Bashful Lock, becomes a metallic con game.
  • A color-changing knife becomes the instrument for telling a tale of love and tragedy.
  • Three coins bring together a collector with the ghost of Judas.

And further original mysteries are evoked from topological wonders such as the Hypercard, the Trapdoor Card and some amazing origami folds.

In all, This Is Not a Book guides the reader through a world of more than thirty excursions into wonder, surprise and mystery, with full presentations designed for close-up magicians and motivational speakers not afraid of mixing some meaning with their magic and entertainment. This is not a book - it is a blossoming of wonder and new places to find it.

Pages 410 - Deluxe Hardcover; 290 illustrations by Earle Oakes.

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