Halfway through reading Alex Stone's memoir, Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind, I read Ricky Jay's blisteringly negative review of the book in the Wall Street Journal. Cleverly titled "Slight of Hand," Jay described Stone's book as "an ostensibly self-effacing memoir by an inept amateur conjurer."
I love Ricky Jay's magic, his books, his quarterly magazine, and his performances. Jay is a talented magician and a fascinating storytelling historian of magic, con artists, and sideshows. He's certainly a more talented magician and a more knowledgable historian that Stone. And Jay rightfully calls out several errors of fact that Stone made in Fooling Houdini.
But even so, I finished Stone's book because I was fascinated by his story.
He starts by recounting his tragically humiliating disqualification at an international magic competition (he was the only magician to get "red-lighted" in the middle of a performance -- the equivalent of getting "gonged"). So ashamed was he by the unceremonious ejection from the stage that he gave up magic and pursued a post-grad degree in physics.
Eventually the lure of the conjuring arts called him back, but this time around, Stone got serious. He sought mentors, practiced incessantly, researched magic history, and read up on the psychology of deception and the limits of human perception.
Then Stone experiences his magic-related tragedy. He wrote an article about his experience at the magic competition for Harper's, in which he explained how some of the tricks were done. Fellow members of the magic society he was a member were incensed by his violation of the magician's code and tried to drum him out. Determined to defend himself, Stone hired a lawyer and was able to keep his membership. The experience seemed to make him even more determined to continue on his magical journey.
As a result of his work and research Stone became a better magician and gained respect for masters of the craft, including Jay, whom he writes of reverently in his book. When Steven Levitt of Freaknomics interviewed Stone and asked him what he thought of Jay's WSJ review, Stone said, "That guy's a legend. It's an honor even to be criticized by him."
(Clive Thompson, Joshua Glenn, and I discussed fooling Houdini on the most recent episode of Gweek.)
Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind
See sample pages from this book at Wink. Ciro’s Nightclub of the Stars by Andra D. Clarke and Regina Denton-Drew Arcadia Publishing 2015, 128 pages, 6.5 x 9.2 x 0.3 inches $22 Buy a copy on Amazon In the 1940s and ‘50s, everyone who was anyone went to Ciro’s Nightclub on the Sunset Strip in […]
Ink on paper is a better product, at least for now, and it’s showing at British tills. Sky UK’s Lucy Cotter reports the first better year for print since 2007, and the worst one for ebooks since 2011. Last year saw the first rise in sales since 2007, while digital book sales dropped for the […]
The irreverent adventures continue! In Knights of the Apocalypse, Benjamin Wallace’s former librarian is back and bumbling through the wreckage of civilization! Jerry, Erica and their massive massif Chewy, have wound-up broken-down in the Kingdom of the Five Peaks. Southern Colorado’s new ruler King Elias offers our post-apocalyptic nomadic warrior a chance to live, but […]
It’s one thing to enjoy dinner at home and a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon with your best friend, Netflix, but it’s another thing entirely to make that meal from scratch and get that wine delivered right to your doorstep.But what if we told you there’s a way to make this possible? To keep your social life, […]
Having to pack and drag your stuff through security can put quite the damper on your vacation plans. Thankfully, we’ve got your back with one way to make traveling more painless: the Jumper Overnighter Travel Bag.This compact bag is so lightweight that you can effortlessly carry it, and fit it into any overhead compartment. But just […]
Learning is a 24/7/365 proposition, and it never ends. And if you’re truly serious about leveling up your skill sets and career prospects, get a subscription to Stone River Academy’s massive course collection. This offer normally is worth over $1,400, but is now available for just $89 in the Boing Boing Store.A respected name in information technology […]