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Book Review: Magic for Dummies

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Magic for Dummies
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Despite the title that implies a text for the lowest common denominator, David Pogue’s “Magic for Dummies” provides an excellent set of easy tricks that require no complicated sleight of hand and use common objects that are found in homes and offices, and it offers lots of good suggestions for presentation. The tricks are varied and involve cutlery, food, matches, cards, mentalism, ropes and more. The book also has a who’s who of magic that contributed tricks that include such notables as Gregory Wilson, Billy McComb, Johnny Thompson, Jeff McBride and others.

Throughout, the book offers excellent descriptions and instructions and helpful photos. The writing style is light and easy to read. There are good introductory chapters that offer some background on magic, but for the most part, “Magic for Dummies” dives straight into the tricks and saves the magic history for the end of book.

As you may expect, there are lots of easy tricks that are described in “Magic for Dummies” and in competing books such as Tom Ogden’s “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Magic Tricks” and “The Klutz Guide to Magic.” This is to be expected as there are lots of tricks that magicians learn in their early years that are found in the beginning magic books in libraries. In fact, some tricks in “Dummies” are the very same ones that I independently wrote up here for Magic & Illusion that are found in our “Library of Simple Tricks.”

In the book, you’ll find the usual torn and restored paper, various predictions and revelations, many with cards, the disappearing salt shaker, bending spoon, sawing someone using ropes, the bouncing dinner roll, ring off rope, jumping rubber band and lots more. The stunts such as the stretching finger and off the wall are perfect for beginning magicians and kids. There’s some great material here. One of the tricks is the opener for a popular touring magician.

I don’t care for the tricks that involve food. I’ve often seen careless magicians rudely grab sugar packets at restaurants and leave a mess of shredded paper and strewn sugar. While the tricks involving sugar and food are good ones, I would prefer that books for beginners and kids not emphasize them. One trick involves breaking an object. If I were the author, I would be concerned someone could get hurt. There are also a few tricks that involve putting objects in the mouth, which is a no no for kids.

While it’s a standard in beginning books, I’ve always felt that the floating roll trick is too difficult for beginners to perform convincingly. And because of the conditions under which beginners perform, it’s too risky because audience members will want to sneak behind budding magicians and reveal the secret. It’s just not appropriate for beginners. Those who know the dinner roll trick won’t recognize the secret in a professional stage version performed by the likes of Losander or Dale Salwak.

While “Magic for Dummies” offers some history and background on magic, the emphasis is clearly on tricks. On the other hand, Tom Ogden’s competing book, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Magic Tricks,” gives readers a stronger foundation in magic and how to pursue magic seriously. For this reason, “Idiot’s Guide to Magic” is the stronger of the two titles (I’ll be reviewing this one in upcoming weeks). But for kids and beginners who want to dive right in and learn tricks, “Magic for Dummies” delivers.

-Wayne N. Kawamoto

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