Book Review: The Secret History of Magic: The True Story of the Deceptive Art

Peter Lamont, Jim Steinmeyer present in this book, an insightful, revealing, charming narrative about how the things we magicians have come to believe about the history of magic, might, in and of themselves, have been some of the greatest deceptions perpetrated by the great ancient masters of the art.

For instance Robert Houdin, from whom we magicians take a great deal of our technique and love for the art, was in fact one of the greatest weavers of tall tales in the history of all stage arts. In fact, many of the stories of his exploits that inspired Harry Houdini, were exhagerated accounts of real incidents in his life.

I have just finished the Audible version of the book and I was utterly delighted to find that while the book does tell some of the ancient secrets of magic and illusions throughout the explanation of why certain things we believe are not true; the illusions revealed were those that were the basis for many of the early conjurers no longer in use today.

And, even in the course of the revelation of these illusions, the authors are very open about their belief that knowing the illusion does not take away from the enjoyment of the mastery of the performer. There are several poignant and important pieces of philosophy regarding the art and the performance of it, that every performer that wishes to perfect their art should hear.

I would go so far as to say that the advice given in the musings apply to every artist that seeks to have a deeper resonance with their art and not just be a "guy that does tricks." The narations are artfully arranged and are presented in story telling fashion, which resonated with me personally as that is how I like to present my magic.

I do see how some might view the book as a bit stuffy and purposely overly erudite in its style, but again, it resonated with the way I like to do things. You have to read it with the love of the art in mind and not be like the nine year old at the birthday party... we all know the one...


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