The Magical Experience

"Astonishment gives pleasure; evidence of this is the fact that everyone exaggerates when passing on news, on the assumption that they are giving pleasure."

Aristotle, Poetics

Some magicians see magic as strictly a vehicle for comedy or for an emotionally moving story. Such performers sometimes consider the magic element, nor only secondary, but almost a nuisancc. I've heard such performers denigrate a spectator who points out that he wasn't fooled. In their eyes, this is someone who just doesn't "get it," someone who insists on viewing the performance as a "puzzle."

There is no denying that there are tricks that are not very amazing yet are highly entertaining in other ways. Still, a spectator watching a magician has a right to expect to see apparent impossibilities. Furthermore, I believe that whatever other kind of entertainment value you wish to wring from an effect will only be enhanced if the effect is also truly amazing. It's this aspect of a magic effect that I term its mystery value.

Mystery value is what sets magic apart from all other art forms or forms of entertainment. This book is entirely about maximizing mystery value— not because I think that it's the only important element in magic, but because I think that it is important enough to merit in-depth treatment.

All of my writings are based on the conviction that magic can give an audience an emotional experience they simply can't get from any other art or form of entertainment—what Juan Tamariz has aptly titled the magical experience. Further, it's my conviction that, even more than comedy or any other form of amusement, it's our primary job as magicians to provide an audience with this experience—because if we don't, no one else will.

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