The Art of Astonishment Volumes

by Paul Harris

Doing product reviews is sometimes an exciting job (and here I am using the word "exciting" in the way that driving down a steep mountain road in a car without brakes is exciting). One thing which adds to the excitement is trying to balance the timeliness of a review with the exigencies of a publishing deadline. Combine this with my genetically encoded penchant for procrastination and you now know why Editor Stan has developed that nasty twitch above his left eye.

I mention this because the galleys of one of the most eagerly awaited series of books of recent times arrived on my doorstep on the day that this column was due to be turned in to the MAGIC office. I'm talking about over 900 pages of galleys. The question then was: do we hold off and wait until January, or do I get the column in a little late and try to plow through the books and at least give you a feel for what's in them? I felt that since so many of you would be considering these books as a holiday gift that even though I would not have a chance to work through much of the material, I could at least let you know if they are a worthwhile investment.

Well, here's the bottom line: these are wonderful books, and if you have any interest in close-up magic you will want them in your library. There are over 200 tricks encompassing effects from all of Paul's previously published work, new routines from Paul, and effects from some of Paul's friends. I'll give you a very quick run through of each group.

The previously published material comes from all of Paul's books, starting with The Magic of Paul Harris (1976) through Secrets of the Astonishing Executive (1991). The descriptions of these effects have been edited, and in many cases entire routines have been revised and improved. Most importantly, though, is this: over 50 routines have been eliminated. In the past, my one criticism of Paul's output is that it was in desperate need of an editor. Well, he had one for these books, and the "genetically mediocre" routines didn't make the cut. Perhaps a few less than great items remain, but it is a very small percentage, and compared to the strength of the other routines this is a small quibble.

If the books only contained "the best of Paul Harris" they would be worthwhile. But Paul has added new routines, many of which are designed to be used in impromptu settings. There is a dearth of such material, and Paul's creations are uniformly good. You'll find tricks with food, Swiss Army knives, leaves, Tic Tacs, aluminum foil, and pop cans. Several of these ideas are so good that I wish I were the only person who knew them.

But, that's not all. There are also contributions from some of Paul's friends, including Steve Blencoe, Eric Mead, Bill Malone, Jeff Altman, Harry Eng, Chad Long, Guy Hollingworth, Fred Rohm, Sylvan Mirouf, Patrick Martin, and Greg Wilson. (Not that Greg Wilson, the other Greg Wilson.) All this the material is top notch, but the material from Mead, Mirouf, Martin, and Wilson is exceptional.

There are also essays and dialogues on the art of astonishment, but because of time constraints I didn't have a chance to read them carefully, so I won't comment on them here.

A special nod of appreciation should go to Eric Mead, who collaborated with Paul on these books. Eric wrote the first draft of all the routines, and got out and tried the material in front of real people. His experience as a "real life/down in the trenches" worker greatly influenced what material made the final cut, and the books benefited from his input.

Also, Tony Dunn should get a big tip of the hat for the 2000 drawings he did. They are excellent, and are a magnum order of quality above the illustrations from Paul's early books.

What else can I say? To a younger generation of magicians this material will come as a revelation (especially because, according to a recently published magic book, nothing interesting happened in magic between 1977 and 1994). Those of you who have followed Paul's career and material will reacquaint yourselves with old (and in many cases improved) friends. And everyone will begin playing with the new material offered. You might as well set aside your money now. Sooner or later you're going to have to buy these books. Very highly recommended.

Fundamentals of Magick

Fundamentals of Magick

Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.

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