Dear Friends in Magic,
Greetings! I hope this holiday season finds you well—especially since we can see some “vaccine light” at the end of the tunnel. Yet, we need to take it one day at a time—one step at a time. And to keep you company on this fine day, allow me to share…
A BIG IDEA
If your magic library is like mine, your shelves include good books, great books, and ones that are not-so-good. You have classic books and recommended ones, and unread books, too—some still in the shrink-wrap. There are big beautiful volumes and small slender ones overflowing with ideas. There are history books, theory books, and trick books, covering close-up, parlor, and stage. But the books I especially want to notice this month are the ones I callgolden books.
We all have them—golden books of magic. They are those rare, unforgettable books that feel intensely personal to you. They answer a deep concern, turn on your light bulb, and make you come alive. It’s like the author knew what you were missing and wrote the words just for you.
You probably encountered a golden book in your early pursuit of magic, but they can emerge at any time. And it’s a deep pleasure and treasure when they do. Indeed, I think this is one reason we keep buying magic books—we’re subconsciously panning for gold.
It isn’t only with books that we have these profoundly energizing experiences. Psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas says that they happen throughout our lives with different kinds of things: artworks, beloved objects, favorites cities, certain foods, and meaningful rituals. Bollas calls these resonant things “transformational objects” because they literally transform us. Their inaugural encounter touches us, changes us in a way that seems meant to be. And when we re-encounter them later on, it feels like coming home.
Yes, many kinds of things can do this, but in our field of magic I believe books are an essential touchstone. It’s so easy to lose our way in magic with the daily grind of push-sales, the breathless promises of “easy-to-do,” and endless hankering after the new. But instead of “buy now” how about “let go now”? How about reconnecting with one of your golden books and the self-rediscovery it will bring?
While there are so many good magic books, here are a few of my golden touchstones: Eugene Burger, The Experience of Magic; Juan Tamariz, Five Points in Magic; Bert Allerton, The Close-Up Magician; and The Dai Vernon Book of Magic.
But how about you? What are your golden books of magic? I invite you to make a little list and plan to spend some time during this holiday season “coming home” with one or two of them. There is no need to pan for gold when it is already sitting on your shelf!
IN THE STUDIO
This fall, alongside planning, prep, and delivery of the Magic & Mystery School’s online programs, I also finished Bob Neale’s forthcoming book, Magic Inside Out. I am so excited by this project. The book is being printed as I write and will be released on January 15, 2021.
In connection with this, the School has just opened registration for my next online course: “Deep Study of a Modern Master: Robert E. Neale.” It will be held on three Thursday nights, January 28, February 4, and February 11, from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Pacific.
The course’s primary focus will be Bob’s landmark Trilogy of Magic, which consists of three books: The Magic of Celebrating Illusion (2013), The Sense of Wonder (2014), and An Essay on Magic (2015). There is no need to read these books to take the course. You will learn many of Bob’s wonderful routines and gain an understanding of his rather deep view that, in some sense, we are all “magicians” as we live our lives. Along the way, we will also explore the excellent new material in Magic Inside Out.
For more information and to sign up, please go here. No worries if you cannot attend in live time: every registrant gets access to videos of each class for On-Demand viewing. I hope you will join us for this “Feast of Neale.”
One last thing to mention: three weeks ago, I received copies of the brand-new Korean-language translation of my book: Life Magic: Ideas & Mysteries. The publisher, Bumjoon Choi, directed me to especially note the cover because his designer artfully incorporated Korean letters to express the book’s title. I am honored by this release and hope you enjoy this glimpse of it.
IT’S NOT MAGIC, BUT…
On Thanksgiving Eve, I went for curbside pick-up from one of our favorite restaurants. I turned off my Jeep while waiting, and when I tried to start it again… nothing. I mean, not even a grind.
Arrgh! It was 5:00, and everything was closing for the holiday. Roadside assistance bounced me around on hold for 10 minutes, I was parked at a very busy intersection, and my cell phone was getting low on charge. I was looking at a very long night.
After my daughter came to pick up the food—at least my family would eat—I called the first towing service on the list. A young man picked up (a human being!) and said he could be there in 20 minutes. Good! It turned out he arrived in 7—and he was fully masked (as was I). He expertly winched my Jeep onto his flat-bed, I jumped into the cab, and we drove directly to my auto shop—which was just closing its doors. But no worries; they said, “Load it into Bay 8, and we’ll get to it first thing Friday.”
On the drive to the shop, the tow truck driver said my timing had been perfect. He had been busy all day, but my call came during his first lull. He told me how blessed he felt because he could help people who were in a jam. When I asked if he was going to get Thanksgiving off, he said, “No, I work eight days a week, but I’m happy to be able to take care of my family.” When we discussed the pandemic and the coming vaccines, he said, “It’s all about hope, right? Gotta stay positive. It is all going to work out.”
Later, as my daughter drove me home, I felt like the luckiest guy in the world. Instead of hours sitting next to a dead car, I was only 45 minutes past due. I was about to have a fine meal with my family. And I had had an unexpected encounter with an angel—reminding me what it’s all about.
HAPPENING AT THE PRESS
We remain busy filling orders for our latest release, Wandcraft: Making & Using a Magic Wand by Judge Gary Brown. No official reviews have appeared yet, but Gary and I have been receiving many emails from happy customers. The book is $29.95 and available here.
We are also preparing for the product launch of Magic Inside Out on January 15. Note: in conjunction with this, we will be releasing, in limited supply, a special deck of cards made for one of the routines in the book. We will have some other exclusive Bob Neale materials back in stock on that date.
In the spirit of the holiday season, it’s my pleasure to connect you with my friend Jay Fortune for a generous offer. Jay is an extraordinary visual artist who created the painting of me you saw above. Among other subjects, Jay creates paintings, drawings, and charcoal renditions of famous magicians. For the mere cost of postage he will send you a high-quality print of his recent rendering of Vernon. The piece is really quite astonishing; I think many of you will love to have it.
You can get your free Vernon print from Jay by going here. Please note: at checkout use the code FREEVERNON to get the special offer.
My best thoughts are with you and your family during this holiday season. Thank you for being part of my community. Please stay in touch and share this newsletter with any friends and family who might enjoy it. May you be healthy and peaceful in the weeks ahead!
Dean of McBride’s Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press