A physics scholar explores how the combination of science, magic and real life stirred his inner magician.
Stone begins his kaleidoscopic tour through the world of illusion at the 2006 World Championships of Magic in Stockholm, where be beheld tricks of the trade that soon became more life altering than spectacle. A self-described “nerdy and unsocialized” only child, the author was 5 when his father, an eccentric geneticist, gave him a magic kit from F.A.O. Schwarz, which provided him a real-world escape and a perpetual fascination. In a memoir studded with historical factoids, charming anecdotes and a variety of behind-the-curtain insider secrets to classic magic tricks, Stone serves as a winsome tour guide through several wizardly institutions where he gleaned a magical education. After a disastrously amateurish onstage flop, meetings at the Society of American Magicians restored the author’s wounded confidence, as did time at a magic school in Las Vegas, an instructional apprenticeship with master illusionist Wesley James, shadowing Manhattan’s Canal Street hustlers, and even a stint at clown school. He enthusiastically describes the delicate mechanics of wristwatch stealing, cardsharping and finger calisthenics. Stone’s first attempt at exposing trade secrets (an unspoken industry no-no) appeared in a 2008 Harper’s article that drew vehement criticism and practically shunned the author from the magical community altogether. Juicy bits aside, there’s plenty of eye-opening knowledge on display for those inclined to discover what lies behind the curtain.