A massive worldwide outpouring of love and affection followed the news that mentalist Max Maven passed at age 72. Unanimously respected, admired, and worshipped as a living legend among magicians, Max Maven has been a true original and creative genius: a master performer of mentalism and mystery artist, a prolific author, a clever inventor, a philosopher and historian of magic, an intellectual of the highest caliber, with an encyclopedic mind, the sharpest wit and wry humor. Behind his unmistakable mephistophelian look lied a sweet, generous, kind, magnificent man.
With a career spanning over 50 years, he performed on televisions and theaters all over the world. Reviewing his last theater show, The New York Times observed that Max's "Category-defying mind-reading show veers into conceptual art." Behind the scenes, he has been a consultant for most of the top names in contemporary magic, and an advisor on over one hundred television shows. He has published over two thousand articles, tricks and essays. His contribution to the art of magic cannot be overestimated, and his work will continue to inspire and influence new generations of mystery performers.
The Experience of Mystery
Maven's powerful and charismatic stage persona commanded attention and reverence, capturing the audience imagination. Here's a eloquent fragment of a conversation between Maven and director Donna Zuckerbrot, from the wonderful documentary, Max Maven – A Fabulous Monster:
D.Z.: There's a lot of people who thinks that what you do is real, that you can read people's mind. How do you respond to that?
M.M.: Well, you questions presumes that I can't.
D.Z.: Are any of these mysteries real, or just the tricks of a skilled conjurer?
M.M.: If a person thinks that everything I'm doing is exactly what appears to be, then they're wrong. On the other hand, if the person watching me assumes everything I do is fabricated and fraudulent, they are also wrong. Because what I'm doing is something in the middle. And exactly where in the middle is not my problem, is it?
Max lifelong interest, search and obsession focused on the concept of mystery, and how to offer his audience such precious and elusive experience. According to him, "As human beings, our species is hard-wired to understand the existence of mystery." We're living in times where we absorb, assimilate, and are overwhelmed by huge amount of information, to the limit that we have the feeling of knowing so much, but with the risk of leaving little space to mystery and not-knowing. Now more than ever, it's worth reminding ourselves that "knowing is a good thing, but so is not-knowing." And that was Max artistic goal: to invite people to celebrate the beauty of mystery and not-knowing, "Because a life without mystery is not worth living".
To get a taste of Max brilliance in action, here's a lecture/show he delivered at the EG Conference:
Just a few weeks ago, he's been awarded the latest of many awards from the magic community: the Masters Fellowship, the highest honor by the Academy of Magical Arts. Here a brief video with Max talking, along with some friends expressing their love and gratitude for what he's done:
Fellow magician Ondřej Pšenička wrote:
I've somehow always thought that Max is immortal. And his passing doesn't change that. Some humans are so incredible in all possible ways that they are so deeply embedded in people's hearts and history that their presence will never cease to exist.
Beautifully put, says it all.
Farewell Max. You'll be missed, dear friend, but forever alive.
Photo courtesy of David Belenzon Management, Inc.