When Alex Stone was five years old, his father bought him a magic kit--a gift that would spark a lifelong love. Years later, while living in New York City, he discovered a vibrant underground magic scene exploding with creativity and innovation and populated by a fascinating cast of characters: from his gruff mentor, who holds court in the back of a rundown pizza shop, to one of the world's greatest card cheats, who also happens to be blind.Read more...
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When Alex Stone was five years old, his father bought him a magic kit--a gift that would spark a lifelong love. Years later, while living in New York City, he discovered a vibrant underground magic scene exploding with creativity and innovation and populated by a fascinating cast of characters: from his gruff mentor, who holds court in the back of a rundown pizza shop, to one of the world's greatest card cheats, who also happens to be blind. Captivated, he plunged headlong into this mysterious world, eventually competing at the Magic Olympics and training with great magicians around the globe to perfect his craft.
From the back rooms of New York City's century-old magic societies to cutting-edge psychology labs; three-card monte on Canal Street to glossy Las Vegas casinos; Fooling Houdini recounts Stone's quest to join the ranks of master magicians. As he navigates this quirky and occasionally hilarious subculture, Stone pulls back the curtain on a community shrouded in secrecy, fueled by obsession and brilliance, and organized around a single overriding need: to prove one's worth by deceiving others.
But his journey is more than a tale of tricks, gigs, and geeks. In trying to understand how expert magicians manipulate our minds to create their astonishing illusions, Stone uncovers a wealth of insight into human nature and the nature of perception. Every turn leads to questions about how the mind perceives the world and processes everyday experiences. By investigating some of the lesser-known corners of psychology, neuroscience, physics, history, and even crime, all through the lens of trickery and illusion, Fooling Houdini arrives at a host of startling revelations about how the mind works--and why, sometimes, it doesn't.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-03-05
- Reviewer: Staff
Entranced by magic tricks at age five, science journalist Stone argues that stage magic “lets us suspend adulthood and retrieve... the childlike sense of astonishment that fades as we age.” Having taken “an almost perverse joy in stupefying illustrious faculty” at Columbia, where he received a master’s in physics, Stone began to discover “connections between magic and science,” and this book explores those linkages in depth. Beginning in Stockholm with the 2006 World Championship of Magic, he attended a Society of American Magicians initiation and visited Tannen’s, the New York City store where magicians share secrets. Seeking formal training, Stone arrived in Vegas for classes at the Magic and Mystery School, returning to New York for intense sessions with a sleight-of-hand expert in false shuffles and card cheats. Along with magic history, he covers con games and grifters, finger fitness, studies in attention and perception, the psychology of touching, and tactile card skills of the legally blind. Stone also details how he made enemies when he violated the magician’s code of secrecy by revealing tricks in a Harper’s article. With many fascinating anecdotes up his sleeve, Stone conjures an entertaining book. Agent: Elyse Cheney, Cheney Literary. (June)