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Gene Anderson - The Book Review

Official Review

January 26th, 2017 8:48am
Reviewed by Dr. J. M. Ayala de Cedoz
This book was a long time coming; it was in development for over 8 years. It went through many different iterations and changes. You might almost consider this book a sort of Magnum Opus for Gene Anderson.

When this book finally hit the market, many people were excited and with good reason. When Gene released material in the past it was always very well-received, again with good reason. His material is always well-thought out and it is taught in a clear, concise manner that is easy to understand and follow. The same could be said for the way he routines his work.

The description right off the bat hints at a high-quality product - the book is a Smyth-sewn, black cloth hardcover with gold foil stamping on the cover and spine with heavy 70-pound matte pages and a four-color gloss dust jacket, it is amply illustrated with black & white photos and hand-drawn illustrations amplified by the use of Adobe Illustrator, which Gene taught himself to use specifically for the task of illustrating this book.

The drawings are all very simplistic, clear and easy to follow and understand. The photos in the book are almost like stop-action shots - they show you what illustrations cannot and sometimes, they are meant to show you a particular position that you, your audience participant and/or your props should be in at certain points during the effect.

When I first got this book myself, I was of course interested in the effects because for one, they are all commercial, but the first things I read in the book were not the effects. None of them. The first things I tucked into were the tips, hints, philosophy and essay sections. The hints and tips portions, which Gene calls "From the Gene Pool" in the book, are all full of ideas to try, what to do or not to do, alternative ways of doing something, etc.

Also sprinkled throughout the book are quotes from some of the greatest thinkers, writers, philosophers, magicians and more from throughout the ages. These quotes all serve a purpose and that purpose is usually to hightlight a point that Gene is trying to make on specific subjects. This is something that they do very well, in my opinion.

There is even a wonderful section in the book that focuses on tables and how to construct a few different types. These are not exact blueprints, but rough dimensions are given along with materials needed. If you have basic carpentry skills you will be able to make any of these tables to suit your own needs and if not, you can show the sketches to a carpenter who could easily do it for you. These tables are simple in design, easy to make, easy to transport and easy to use. They were designed with all of those things in mind and every one of those points were achieved.

Okay, so what about the rest of the contents in this book? Are they rehashed old material that you have read somewhere else? NO! In fact, all of it is material that Gene currently performs in his working repertoire. As he put it, "If I do not currently perform it, it is not in this book!" You read that right - all of the material he currently performs for paying audiences (magicians/magic clubs/public) are in this book. Is there some old material in here? Yes, but let me explain a bit further.

Back in 1975 Gene wrote a booklet called "Secrets for the Part-Time Pro", which was for his debut lecture at the Magic Castle. That also happens to be the first time he performed there. That was very well-received and is full of advice on how to select good material, how to assemble your act, how to organise it, practicing and performing habits and much, much more. That text is included here in this book.

You will also find every detail of his Newspaper Act, including his world-famous Torn & Restored Newspaper. The latter is the one thing that Gene is probably best known for all over the world. This particular act really boosted his reputation, especially among magicians, and it has also been greatly enjoyed by public audiences for decades. You will learn how to make various paper hats in the Chapeaugraphy section, as well as learning other very cool things to do with newspapers like making corn dolls, trees, paper chains, figurines, shapes and so much more.

I might point out one thing: If you are the kind of magician that loves arts & crafts, you will be in all of your glory with this book and the effects herein; if you do not like arts & crafts, please try! The items in here are not hard to make and most require some bit of prop making or at the very least assembling them in a certain way.

As for the rest of the effects in this book, they are very commercial and all of them use props, but not "magician-looking" props; they are items that are quite familiar-looking (or at least not fishy-looking...or smelling) to all audiences. 'Picto Transpo' is a great example - it uses what looks like two double-sided whiteboards on which the magician and a volunteer draw each other. These are both signed on the back and then put into envelopes. After just a brief moment, the drawings switch places! This is very clean and very magical!

'The Pajama Cord Trick' is his wonderful take on the Professor's Nightmare, 'Knot Dr. Seuss' is a wonderful bit with a rope where you tie a bunch of knots into a rope as you recite a Dr. Seuss-esque poem, and when the large knot falls off at the end, you are left with a short piece of rope.

'Marko' is a great piece where a folded strip of paper is tapped with a marker and when it is unfurled, a message is seen to have appeared on it. This message can be anything you want and can be written to suit a particular occasion or event.

He also divulges his handling of the classic Die Box which uses a very funny and original presentation, including some very comical gags and lines.

Gene also includes his scripts for every single effect, and the way the effects are taught is very nice - the descriptive words suiting the actions they are describing are all put together (read: paired up) on the page. This makes it very clear as to what you are supposed to be doing and when, and if there is a particular scripting line that goes with a particular action, it is noted as well.

There will be absolutely no doubt in your mind that when you read this book, it was written by a person that really knows what they are talking about and that they really know the material inside and out, backwards, forwards, up, down, left and right. You will also notice that the material has been put through the wash and wringer many times, which has resulted in trimmed and polished material. The same can be said for the scripting and blocking; everything in this book got the same treatment over the years and nowhere is it more evident than in the Newspaper Act section. The manner in which everything is written almost feels biographical; you get the sense that you are getting to know Gene, just as if you were sitting down with him to have a great conversation over coffee and a good meal. It kind of leaps off the page to your eyes.

When you hold this book in your hands, you are holding many years of carefully gleaned and sculpted wisdom and ingenuity, all born out of inspiration and real-world experience. It is all presented here clearly for you to learn, experiment with and apply to your own work. Even if you do not end up performing any of the material within, you WILL gain something from this book just by reading all of the hint/tip/essay/philosophy sections.

There is a lifetime of experience in this book and in my humble opinion it deserves a spot on the shelf of every serious magician.


Suggestions from the Reviewer

Currently this book is only available directly from Gene Anderson. Visit his website: and if you want the book signed to you, you can request that when ordering. All of the shipping options with cost are also given on the site. You can read both the overview and the Table of Contents on the website.

*If this product becomes available through other avenues at later dates, this posting will be updated to reflect that.

Product info for Gene Anderson - The Book

Author: Anderson, Gene
Publisher: Anderson, Gene
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $65.00
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Manufacturer's Description:

Physical details: Smyth-sewn casebound, black cloth case with gold foil stamping on cover and spine, seventy-pound matte pages, and four-color gloss dust jacket.
Content: The Book's 256 pages are illustrated with 890 line drawings and photographs. Twenty-three chapters each describe one effect and routine to the tiniest detail. Each one is from my current working repertoire, and each has been routined and tightened over years of live performances for real people. If it isn't a current and honed performance piece, it's not in The Book. Routines that I no longer perform are not included, and no clever tricks were created just to be in this book. Four additional chapters contain supplemental information with no tricks. Twenty-seven personal snippets about me ("The Gene Pool") are sprinkled throughout the text, and 206 quotes provide additional insight with lots of humor. The back cover of the dust jacket provides a good overview and the chapter titles are listed on the content page.
Composition: Written words were a part of my "writing," but only a part. I needed to see those words, and their accompanying visuals, together in real time. I learned Adobe Illustrator and ultimately drew 487 illustrations.

Page layout was another defining factor—the third leg of the creation stool. I used Adobe InDesign to define the delicate balance between words and illustrations, on an individual page-by-page basis. Photographs sometimes convey intent more clearly than line drawings, and I post-processed 403 photographs taken by my collaborators and myself using Adobe Photoshop. Many of these photographs I enhanced (photo-Illustrated) in Adobe Illustrator with supplemental text, outlines and arrows. The result of all this is now The Book.

Scripts: Each of the 23 routines includes the script that I use in its presentation. The script is divided into action and patter.
"Suit the action to the word, word to action"
– William Shakespeare
Actions speak louder than words, and seeing the action in juxtaposition to the words communicates the performance script almost at a glance. I use these scripts to refresh my memory when preparing for a performance. It's fast and effective. My scripts may be a helpful starting point for you, but eventually you should write scripts of your own. I hope that mine will launch you into a new, creative direction.

256 pp., 2016

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