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Book Review: Bringing Magic to Life

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Book Review: Bringing Magic to Life

If you believe that presentation makes a trick and creates the magic, and you should, you’ll find lots to like in Dr. Jay Ungar’s “Bringing Magic to Life.” Ungar offers his first rate presentations for lots of well known effects. Almost any performer can benefit from reading Ungar’s ideas and angles.

Dr. Jay Ungar is a medical doctor, a practicing internist with a specialty in geriatrics. While his work and family are obvious passions, his third is magic. Bringing Magic to Life is the culmination of his life-long love of magic. While Ungar describes himself as an amateur, he undoubtedly has magic skills (he once studied with Slydini) and, from the sound of it, the experience and charisma of a magic pro. Ungar performs magic daily with almost everyone he meets: his patients, colleagues, sales reps and more.

Shtick is the Trick

Ungar passionately believes that “The shtick is the trick.” “People don’t want to just watch tricks; they want to feel connected,” says Ungar in the book. “How much better is it to share their joy and feel their warmth, than to wonder whether they were really fooled?” Ungar talks about how to accomplish this throughout his book.

The first part of the book offers a lengthy introduction that goes in different directions and presents lots of concepts. Much of this section is devoted to Ungar’s bio and his experiences in magic. While the “Magical Thoughts’ introduction sometimes reads like a stream-of-consciousness from Ungar’s mind, I enjoyed reading it and admire Ungar’s enthusiasm. It’s infectious.

Warm and Fuzzy to Shocking

The second part of the book offers Ungar’s patter and presentations for a variety of close-up effects that are divided as follows: “Warm and Fuzzies,” “Wow, That Was Cool!” and “Shock Alert.” Ungar says that “warm and fuzzies” are effects that “elicit more “aah” than “Oh, my God!” The second section offers a collection of money and card effects that, according to Ungar, leave audiences saying “Wow, That Was Cool!” And as the name implies, “Shock Alert” offers effects that are startling and shocking. Ungar urges readers to use discretion when performing any of the four effects in this section.

The book offers a list of well known effects that Ungar has identified as strong ones-many are well-known standards. As a result, it wouldn’t be fair to list them here in this review. In his explanations, Ungar generally does not reveal the technical workings of an effect.


With each effect, Ungar offers his presentation and step-by-step patter. The book features lots of pictures that depict each step. And beyond themes, dialogue, jokes and gags, Ungar often talks about props that may be made to enhance the effect, and, in some cases, even discusses sound effects and how to make them.

Throughout, Ungar offers excellent instruction. To obtain a flavor for Ungar’s approach, he offers a sample segment from the book on his website, his take on Dan Harlan's "Starcle." (Click here to read the sample segment).

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