A magician conjures up memories, dreams, and reflections on his craft.
In this amiable and engaging memoir, professional magician Staniforth, a former host of the Discovery Channel’s Breaking Magic, reveals no secrets except about himself. The first part of the narrative is a portrait of a young man teaching himself to do magic and performing it, while the second is about a slightly older man in search of the true wonders of magic he had lost. He was a 9-year-old boy on an Ames, Iowa, playground when he made a coin vanish and reveled in the surprised looks on his playmates’ faces. As he writes, “I learned that you can say something with a magic trick that is hard to say any other way.” After he saw David Copperfield perform his magic, Staniforth realized he “wanted to do magic above all else.” He read everything he could find about magic and discovered Blackstone, Houdini, David Berglas, Paul Harris, and David Blaine. He practiced for hours. When he first began performing, he wanted to “give the audience an experience that rose above mere deception.” However, after five exhausting years on the road doing show after show, Staniforth became cynical about his craft; the real magic had disappeared. So he traveled to the other side of the world to India, the land of mystery, looking for magic. Traveling around with his filmmaker friend, he observed snake charmers, con men, holy men, mystics, gurus, and street performers, and he was chased down the street by a one-armed monkey. The author also learned about tantric yoga and the powerful Aarti ceremony by the Ganges River, which serves “as a way of thanking the holy river.” Some repetition and meandering somewhat mars this section, but the author’s descriptions of how he rediscovered real magic reinvigorates his story.
Magic can be unnecessarily flashy, but this book isn’t flashy at all; it’s an assured and thoughtful work about finding true “awe and wonder.”