Steinmeyer never tenders a deflating moment, even after the tricks are turned inside out. A buoyant articulation of the...

HIDING THE ELEPHANT

HOW MAGICIANS INVENTED THE IMPOSSIBLE AND LEARNED TO DISAPPEAR

A good-natured, respectful, and modestly revelatory excursion through a century of the magic arts from one of the innovators of the game.

“My experience tells me that the story of magicians can only be understood when you understand their art. And the secrets are only impressive when you understand the people responsible, the theatrics, and the history surrounding them,” writes illusionist Steinmeyer, who then genially proceeds to introduce the great magicians from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries: David Devant, Alexander Herrmann, the Meskelynes, and Howard Thurston. Harry Houdini is dismissed as a “terrible magician,” though as an escape artist he was in the firmament, and his disappearing elephant does capture Steinmeyer’s imagination, if only for its magnitude and bravura. They were all, Steinmeyer writes, comfortable in both the worlds of theater and science, likely to cultivate reputations for travel to lands of wonder—the Indian subcontinent or the Himalaya of flying monks. With low-key panache, Steinmeyer clues us in on smoke and angles, sightlines and dark pits, synchronized counting, distraction, the gooseneck that allowed a hoop to pass around a levitating body, the exploitation of audiences’ anticipations, preconceptions, and assumptions—though sadly, we learn, many a neat trick went to the grave with its creator. Mostly, though, Steinmeyer tells of mirrors and panes of glass, of the optical formulas for invisibility. Need an elephant to vanish? Get a big mirror and a good angle. For other disappearing acts, build a Porteau Cabinet or a Corsican Trap, a Maskelyne’s Gorilla Den or Davenport Spirit Cabinet. Each works with mirrors, and Steinmeyer explains how (though rope tricks remain difficult to grasp after what appears—remember, never trust appearances in the company of magicians—a very clear explanation).

Steinmeyer never tenders a deflating moment, even after the tricks are turned inside out. A buoyant articulation of the brilliance and brains behind the best artists’ ingenious feats. (Illustrations)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7867-1226-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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