Recently I was rereading one of my favorite modern tomes on magic. Written by a performer named Levent, he’s a wonderful scholar of magic yet writes not from the perspective of a historian but a working performer. (That’s because he is.) The book is on Roy Benson, a clever and deep thinking magician who performed as a quirky and somewhat shabby comic whose heyday was the 40’s through 60’s. The book weighs right in at five pounds.
I love this book. It gives the history on many pieces of Benson’s magic act. How they were done before him, what the problems were to that point, and how he cleaned up the tiny details of the mechanical aspects as well as how Benson integrated the new pieces into his performance style. This is great stuff. However, if you’re reading this to learn “tricks” and thinking about looking this book up, I highly recommend you don’t. Not only is the book going today for several hundred dollars, chapter 31 is twenty eight pages long and called “The Vanishing Silk”. Yep, that’s all it discusses, vanishing a silk handkerchief. Really. Not two or three silks but vanishing just one silk. Yet this is exactly why I love this book.
Perhaps it’s the inner geek or my long love of magic but I find every page of this chapter (and all the others) to be pure gold. It’s not that I care about vanishing a silk but it’s the thinking that Levent shares about how Benson put this piece together. Where he saw the problems before him and how he creates a better solution to fit his vision. He’s showing us how one smart performer walked the steps before us. If we listen, we can hear Benson analyzing the trick and how he pulled his hair out over and over to say what he wanted to say, his way. He’s teaching us by example. In a world, where it’s hard to find students who care about the details and worry over the little things that all great things are made, in a world where it’s even harder to find teachers who don’t just think they know but who’ve actually marched in the trenches for thousands of hours before us, Benson (channeled through Levent) is teaching us his thinking of our craft. Twenty eight pages just to vanish a silk!
Thank you for every single page of those five pounds.