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Absolute Magic Review

March 10th, 2004 8:48pm
Reviewed by Neil
A ground breaking book that will probably annoy the heck out of many magicians!

This isn't a book with any magic effects as such in it but is an extended essay on approaching magical performance. Perhaps more accurately it is a book that details Derren's approach and it is one that has raised him from table-magician at a Bristol (UK) restaurant to the UKs leading magic TV star (read "psychological illusionist").

Derren's view is that "real magic" should come from somewhere and mean something. What will irritate some magicians is his apparant dismissal of the revered classics - he'd say that the cups and balls aren't real magic (gosh!)...they are an entertaining trick but no-one watching is made to re-evaluate their view on reality, even if they can't explain how the moves are done. He wants to make people question their beliefs, to come away a bit shakey. He explains how real magic can be found in the standard effects by thinking about the emotional presentation. For instance, he takes a simple floating ring trick and shows how he ties it to the spectators emotions and turns it into something quite unnerving. By the way, he's not dismissing the classics but is delineating magical entertainment from the experience of real magic.

He takes some lovely swipes at the trite motivations many of us rather thoughtlessly give to our audiences "this card is very ambitious...." and suggests subtle alternatives. He asks us to look at who we think we are and who we want to create as a performer. Do we want to be just jolly tricksters or skilled guides to a magical world beyond? Reading it I was constantly thinking "that explains why he is where he is and other magicans are just impressing the boys at the club"

Derren has little time for the buy-a-book-and-perform-a-trick brigade (of which I am one). He insightfully compares magic to the world of stand-up comedy - what would we think if a comic watched a more successful comics, picked out the jokes he liked and then recited them as his "act". We'd think he was an cheating, unimmaginative idiot. But that's what average magicians do everyday. He'd prefer us to change, create and stamp our own personality on effects and present something that is uniquely us. But how many of us have the guts and talent to do that?....

He writes well, is witty, knows his stuff inside out and has applied these very same philosophies to drive his own career to great success. What more proof could we need. But I doubt many people will see the value of his words and will continue to do the same things for ever even though the world has moved on.

Anyone wondering if Derren just has sour grapes from not being able to do standard sleight of hand magic well should buy his "Devil's Picturebook" video which showcases his discarded(!) card magic work. It is astonishingly (and depressingly) good.
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Product info for Absolute Magic

Author: Brown, Derren
Average Rating:  (2)
Retail Price: $45.00
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Manufacturer's Description:

Derren Brown offers a detailed study of the most difficult task facing any close-up magician: how to make magic convincing. This is a rich and witty journey through the thinking of Britain’s foremost current magical performer, whose television specials have revolutionized mentalism and drawn massive viewing figures. Absolute Magic offers the profoundest thinking, expressed in the most memorable and vivid prose, and is a necessary modern classic for the magician or mentalist striving to make his performances more powerful.

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