When Alex Stone was five years old, his father bought him a magic kit - a gift that would spark a lifelong love. Years later, while living in New York City, he discovered a vibrant underground magic scene exploding with creativity and innovation and populated by a fascinating cast of characters: from his gruff mentor, who holds court in the back of a rundown pizza shop, to one of the world's greatest card cheats, who also happens to be blind. Captivated, he plunged headlong into this mysterious world, eventually competing at the Magic Olympics and training with great magicians around the globe to perfect his craft.
From the back rooms of New York City's century-old magic societies to cutting-edge psychology labs; three-card monte on Canal Street to glossy Las Vegas casinos; Fooling Houdini recounts Stone's quest to join the ranks of master magicians. As he navigates this quirky and occasionally hilarious subculture, Stone pulls back the curtain on a community shrouded in secrecy, fueled by obsession and brilliance, and organized around a single overriding need: to prove one's worth by deceiving others.
But his journey is more than a tale of tricks, gigs, and geeks. In trying to understand how expert magicians manipulate our minds to create their astonishing illusions, Stone uncovers a wealth of insight into human nature and the nature of perception. Every turn leads to questions about how the mind perceives the world and processes everyday experiences. By investigating some of the lesser-known corners of psychology, neuroscience, physics, history, and even crime, all through the lens of trickery and illusion, Fooling Houdini arrives at a host of startling revelations about how the mind works - and why, sometimes, it doesn't.
©2012 Alex Stone (P)2012 HarperCollins Publishers
I read science, biographies, histories, mysteries, adventures, thrillers, educationals, linguistics but not no way, not no how, romances.
God, I really wanted to like this novel. I really did. I wanted to see a thoughtful, informative examination of the magician's world. This book skims the interesting details and techniques of magicians and instead focuses on - of all things - the narrator's life as a student and an aspiring magician. I could not possibly care less. I wanted a book in the style of Mary Roach, what I got was a personal life journey. Personal details stand in place of logistical and technical details and the story of how magicians dedicate decades to their craft simply slips away. Sure, there's a few conferences and interesting characters in here, a little about psychology that I found interesting. But overall, the content is simply not there.
Moreover, the author narrates his own book here. That is almost never a good idea. He's not a compelling reader, giving pauses where they aren't needed, lacking good inflection and not punching up the audio to give the best experience. In an interview at the end he has the gall to suggest that no one else could read his book because of how personal of a story it is. It's audacious, and the book isn't that interesting to begin with. Sorry, Mr. Stone.
Not at all impressed with this book. The author seems very full of himself. I was hoping to learn more about the works of magic but it approaches the subject like anyone who believes anything is an idiot. Actually, everyone is an idiot. I could not make a connection with this book.
This book combines personal narrative, instruction, history, moral exploration, deep thinking, and educational elements. Stone revealed a world I'd never known existed and turned many of my perceptions of the world I DO know on their heads. Magic is inextricably linked with psychology, neuroscience, mathematics, crime, much of American history, and the birth of dollar stores, among many other things! I was pleasantly surprised by the author's candidness and originality of thought. I was delighted that so many of my own questions about magic were answered! It ended too soon but has caused me to begin researching the subject for myself. I can't recommend it enough nor to too many people. The book has injected a new liveliness in my daily conversations! Magic really is a universal delight.
Those last two negative reviews don't make any sense. I don't think they were listening to the same book. The author has a lot of interesting and detailed information collected on his journey to becoming a well rounded magician. He also does a great job narrating his own book.
This is one of the rare books that I both read in print and listened to on audio. So insightful, smart and funny. I learned a lot about the world of magic. Thank you! Waiting for a part two. :0)
Alex Stone was a great narrator! You could really hear the excitement in his voice. It was educational as well as entertaining. A great read!
Brooklyn dog owner and detective story fan. I also enjoy memoirs, short stories and literary fiction.
I don't understand anyone who isn't fascinated by magic - the act of your own brain deceiving you, the secret societies, code of conduct, storied lore, socially awkward young men - basically, it's everything I love in one place. And the fact that I have no business and am not welcome in magic's backrooms only makes it more alluring. In Fooling Houdini, Alex Stone does for magic what Susan Orlean did for orchids, Stefan Fatsis did for Scrabble and David Sedaris did for department store Santas.
Say something about yourself!
This book was a fascinating tours of the unique and heretofore unknown to me world of magic in the modern age. It was told with both an underlying story (the evolution of the author/reader in this world) and regular side jaunts into other subsets of the world or interesting studies or research. It seems like that should be jarring but the author did a fairly good job of blending it all together in a way that was interesting and thought provoking. That said, the underlying story that helped tie the book together so well kind of went...nowhere. I kept waiting for a resolution or for something to bring it all together, but you end up walking away feeling like the author told a coming of age story before having finished coming of age.
I'd still recommend the book as interesting and fun, but I'd do so with the caveat that you should lower your expectations for the ending to be meaningful or conclusive in any way.
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