Review: Fooling Houdini by Alex Stone
Title: Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks & the Hidden Powers of the Mind
Author: Stone, Alex
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Science
Publisher / Year: Harper / 2012
Source: From the publisher for review.
Why I Read It: It wasn’t on my radar, I admit, until I met the author at Book Expo America. It turns out card tricks will make me want to read a book – who knew.
Date Read: 20/07/12
How exactly does magic work? Stone, a physicist and magician, has written this book as part memoir and part examination of magic itself, and the science behind it. He starts with his trip to compete in the Magic Olympics, where he realizes he has much to learn. The rest of the book chronicles his efforts to learn more and perfect his skills. Throughout, he discusses as well various facts about human nature and the ways in which our brains work with magic.
Stone shares some of the secrets behind why magic tricks us. While talking about secrecy in magic he explains that he believes sharing tricks doesn’t lessen their abilities. Just because you that there are gaps in our perception which allow us to be fooled doesn’t lessen the impact of the trick, he says. While many magicians hold this as true, there are others who are angered by someone sharing their tricks, which is also understandable because it is sometimes a part of their livelihood. My favourite part of the book were the discussions on perception, the brain, science, and how magic interacts with all.
My one complaint with the book is with Stone’s style. While many like the narrative flow, I tend to get nervous around memoirs that discuss others in much detail, as regular readers know. I can’t help but wonder what those people think of the ways in which they are discussed. In this book Stone writes with a large dose of self-deprecating humour, which works. What didn’t work for me were the ways in which other characters throughout were introduced. The physical descriptions always led and rarely did anyone get a truly flattering look – it felt like Stone was whispering behind their back to the reader.
All in all, a really interesting read. I always enjoy reading and learning more about the way human nature and the brain work in relation to events we encounter. This was a great example of such reading. Recommended for those who enjoy memoirs, science, and / or magic.