For as much emphasis as we magicians put on movies about magic, we don’t give much thought to books, do we? If we’re reading a magic book, it’s likely to be about a sleight, a technique, how Houdini may have been a secret agent, or how Thurston was the last greatest magician. We don’t stop to think about the great magic stories: As much as we all love “The Prestige,” we need to remember that director Christoper Nolan based his story on Christopher Priest’s novel.
First off: If you haven’t read it yet, get to the library, or your favorite bookseller, now. It’s a great tale. Once you’ve read it, you’ll be better equipped to read all the interesting stuff that the A.V. Club wrote. And one of those features is particularly interesting to us: “On Writing Magic.” Especially some back and forth about what it’s like to know how a trick is done.
Consider this passage from Zack Handlen: “Even though we know the elephant couldn’t really disappear, when we ask for the secret, we want to be told “Yes, it’s all real, you were never fooled.” And then once we realize how simple the truth is, we resent the fictionalist for showing us how easily we’re fooled.”
Then Tasha Robinson: “For me, the best part of a book about stage magic, whether it’s a novel or a non-fiction book, is finding out how the trick is done … I’m delighted to know how stagecraft and showmanship and skill combine to fool an audience. I’m always impressed by cleverness, and at its best, stage magic is equal parts misdirection, flash and cleverness.”
Even though the two are talking about magic tricks revealed in a book, it’s not a stretch for us to change the context of their quotes to watching magic tricks in general — thus proving that all of our audiences have a wide variety of spectators. In each crowd will be the person who doesn’t want to feel like they are fooled, to the person who would love to know how it’s done and appreciate it just the same.
The REAL trick: Adjusting our presentation to perform for both of these groups at the same time.