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December 31, 2002


I'm the sort of person

I'm the sort of person who reads books. Therefore, I am qualified to review the new book Mysterious Stranger by David Blaine, the famous, darkly handsome street magician who gained fame recently through three major stunts: entombing himself in the sidewalk, being encased in a block of ice, and standing on (then leaping from) an 80-foot pillar in Bryant Park.

Blaine's book is part memoir, part how-to guide, and part history of magic. The three elements blend well, although the directions on how to perform various tricks occasionally seem somewhat shoe-horned in with the autobiographical narrative. However, this creates an unusual structure that makes the book quite engaging, even if you don't have an interest in actually performing the tricks. If you've seen Blaine on any of his television specials, you may have been captivated by the simple beauty of his tricks and his laid-back style. This style comes across in his writing, which is very natural and vivid. His writing is less dynamic during his long histories of magic and magicians, specifically in a chapter dedicated to Houdini. I can't be sure, but some of these passages read as though they were ghost-written, or at least heavily edited. That's not a complaint, because the rest of the book is sufficiently personal to compensate for it.

Perhaps the books most interesting chapters are the last three, which details the three major televised stunts he has performed. He discusses the preparation and execution of each of the stunts, as well as his state of mind during each of them, which in most cases can most succinctly be described as "out of it". These passages are particularly interesting if you've actually seen his stunts either in person or on TV.

Blaine also frequently discusses his relationship with his (now deceased) mother, who he obviously loved very much, and seems to have served as a motivation for his success. Blaine comes off as very down-to-earth, daring, practical, focused, and hard-working. Unlike other autobiographies, he does not really attempt to exaggerate his own contributions to magic, but seems almost over-whelmed and flattered by the success he has experienced.

All in all, the book is an entertaining and fast read that gives you great insight into Blaine's character and methodology, and will teach you a few tricks of your own, if you are interested.

posted by adm at 2:43 PM | #


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