An exploration of the world of magic that teaches the reader many tricks--including how better to understand the real world.
Alex Stone--journalist and part-time conjurer--is here to amaze you. But first he had to amaze his fellow magicians. Fooling Houdini is his fascinating, revealing, and nailbiting account of his attempt to win the 23rd World Championships of Magic, the "Magic Olympics," the largest and most prestigious competition of its kind.
Alex Stone managed to qualify for entry and began preparing to astonish people who astonish others for a living. It didn't help his nerves that he was placed on the bill straight after Canadian magician Shawn Farquhar, winner of more magic competitions than anyone in history. Stone's preparations and participation provide his readers with in-depth exploration of the world of magic, and magic's meaning.
He spills many professional secrets, arguing that what is important is to ask questions about what lies behind the tricks: how the mind perceives the world and parses everyday experience, about how the mind works--and why sometimes it doesn't, about why people need to believe.
As we become more attuned to the limits of our own perception, we become better at distinguishing reality from illusion, at reading the angles and decoding the fine print, he says. We gain intuition and understanding into how people behave. We even learn ways to influence this behavior. This makes us less susceptible to all manner of deception.
It is to gain and maintain this sixth sense that Alex Stone--a schoolboy prestidigitator--has continued performing magic well into adulthood. In Fooling Houdini he takes us into that other world, populated by truly astounding characters, and leaves us with a heightened sense of awareness about the supposedly real world.
Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2012: Before reading this book, I thought magic was a little inane. The magicians of my memory wore capes and makeup. They pulled doves from their hats and deployed a lot of smoke. But in Fooling Houdini, Alex Stone reveals a world far deeper and fascinating than I ever imagined. After failing at the Magic Olympics in Stockholm, Stone gets serious about the art of illusion. He attends magic schools and seeks out one of the best "card mechanics" in the world. Along the way, he learns how criminal empires were built on age-old magic scams. He studies the art of mind-reading. And he explains how magicians exploit cognitive blind spots to make the impossible happen in public. He pursues every dark nook of the magic world in pursuit of the ultimate goal – a routine so mindboggling that it would fool other master magicians. Does he succeed? I'd tell you the answer, but that would ruin the magic. --Benjamin Moebius