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Devious Standards Review

Official Review

July 11th, 2011 2:59pm
Reviewed by Gordon Meyer
The bulk of Devious Standards consists of 6 well-developed but opinionated essays about magic and magicians. Many of them have previously appeared in print, but unless you're one of the few subscribers to the excellent but troubled Antinomy magazine, they'll be new to you. I liked them when they first appeared there, and I'm happy to now have them assembled in the sort of quality book that you expect from Hermetic Press. In addition to the essays, there are also profiles and discussion of some of magic's lost luminaries, reprinted from Genii. I consider Swiss to be an excellent essayist, and overall this collection represents his work at its best.

Given that it's summer travel season, I'll also point out that the book is compact and very easy to transport. In fact, it might be the perfect magic book for airplane or poolside reading.

It takes a lot of guts to publish a magic book that doesn't include a single trick, photograph, or dirty joke. Many magicians would never consider buying such a book, but sadly its those magicians that would likely most benefit from thinking about Swiss' advice.

Wait, did I say "advice?" I'm being generous. Unlike other books that are about "philosophy" or "theory," Swiss leaves little room to convey that his views might only be true for him. If you're put off by someone who is bossy and brash about expressing opinions as if they were facts (cf. a New Yorker), then you probably won't enjoy this book. Although, to his credit, Swiss seems to acknowledge this via an usual device in "The JS Rules of Magic" chapter. But I won't spoil the conceit, let's just say it's surprising and clever, and for me, a highlight of the book.

But I suspect that anyone who has already tuned out Swiss because of the pomposity won't be buying this book. And that's a damn shame. Deceptive Standards should absolutely be praised for what it attempts. Frankly I think if you read it fairly, it's impossible not to feel emboldened, challenged, or maybe even embarrassed by your own magic and approach to the art.

Let's face it, magic is overwhelmed with technical publications. Look at your bookshelf or DVD collection. It's sleights, gimmicks, gaffs, and technique ad nauseam. You don't need another book about tricks. You need a book about magic. You need Devious Standards, whether you like it or not.

Available at your favorite Murphy’s Magic dealer

Product info for Devious Standards

Author: Swiss, Jamy Ian
Publisher: Hermetic Press
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $40.00
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Manufacturer's Description:

Don't Settle for the Average! A New Book of Challenging Thoughts about Our Magic...

Jamy Ian Swiss has long been recognized as a force to be dealt with in the world of magic. Intelligent, well-informed, thoughtful, volatile, inspiring, infuriating, articulate, skilled - these are a few of the words used to describe Swiss and his writing. When his first collection of essays on magic, Shattering Illusions, appeared, it received high praise from magicians and trade reviewers alike. This attention broke into public notice with an unprecedented and laudatory review in the Los Angeles Times. Swiss's opinions and evaluations come with the imprimatur of a successful full-time performer who is also a devoted student of the craft and history of conjuring. Among his many credits are appearances on The Today Show, CBS's 48 Hours, PBS's Nova and repeat appearances on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. His clients include Fortune 500 companies and the Smithsonian Institution. He has consulted for such talents as Penn & Teller and Marco Tempest, and has been extensively profiled in the New Yorker. His writings will frustrate those who believe magic theory spills from an ivory tower. Swiss writes from a position of long experience as a performer, and as one who is intimate with many of today's greatest professional magicians.

In Devious Standards, Mr. Swiss has gathered together some of his most recent, insightful, challenging and poignant explorations into the performance of magic and its practitioners. These essays include some of his most trenchant thinking about what constitutes a great magic performance and what hinders it. They include "The Method Is Not the Trick", "Discovering Importance", "Empathy", "A Dissertation on the Double Lift", "The JS Rules of Magic" and "The Last Layman".

Also included are recollective studies - part homage, part analysis - of four of magic's past masters: Martin Nash, Derek Dingle, Bob Read and Billy McComb.

Devious Standards is a book written for those who aspire to better magic, and for those who love the best in magic. It maps the pathway from craft to art, for those with the courage to take it.

230 pages in bibliophilic hardcover.

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